EPG tops Indians in nonconference tilt

Pontiac struggles continue and the Indians might have been hoping that nonconference game at El Paso-Gridley might help right the ship.
    EPG was looking at a Class 3A opponent, regardless of the fact that the Indians had just one win on the season. The Titans had to work for it but in the end, they earned a 57-46 victory at the Titan Center on Tuesday.
    “They’re physical and athletic,” EPG head coach Nathaniel Meiss said. “We don’t see that in our league, especially the physical part. I thought it was good for our guys to play this one.”
    It was a solid effort by the Titans, one that was balanced on offense and rather strong on defense. Four players scored between 9 and 15 points and Pontiac had 18 turnovers.
    “I thought our press was able to get some turnovers. That resulted in some baskets,” Meiss said.
    “What really hurt was, in transition, they got out and went,” PTHS head coach Brandon Martin added. “That’s a fault of our turnovers.”
    It seemed about every pass Pontiac was making, the EPG defense was getting a hand on the ball. It took time for the Indians to find something resembling a weakness.
    Freshman Ryan Weir was the bright spot early as he scored the Tribe’s first seven points. Junior Cam Dawson hit a shot from the baseline as time ran out on the first quarter to give the Indians a 9-8 lead.
    Sophomore Ben Schuler scored on the first possession of the second period to push the PTHS lead to 11-8.
    “Ryan had a nice game for us. He finds a way to get to the line,” Martin said. “We’ll go to battle with him night in and night out.”
    The brief moment of holding a lead vanished after Teron Fairchild made a basket and Andy Layden drained two free throws to put the Titans up 12-11 a minute into the second period.
    Tucker Schlipf scored off a feed from freshman Jack Weber on a fast break. Weber had two free throws and Layden added a basket and free throw before Hub Halvorsen buried a 3-pointer to give the Titans a 22-12 lead with 2:29 to go in the first half.
    EPG’s success was coming from the defensive end. It seemed the Titans were getting a hand on every Pontiac pass, and the defense collapsed inside as Weir found the going tough with the 6-foot-6 Schlipf and 6-3 Weber protecting the lane.
    Weir did get a basket and Carter Dawson nailed a trey to cut the margin to 22-17 by halftime.
    Pontiac’s momentum was not stopped by the intermission. Tyler Rich scored and Schuler recovered a loose ball and took it in for a layup, forcing Meiss to burn a timeout 90 seconds into the second half.
    Weir made two free throws and the Indians were back on top, at 23-22, with 4:13 left in the third period.
    Halvorsen connected from 3-point land again on EPG’s next possession but Weir answered with a deuce to forge a 25-25 tie with 3:15 left in quarter.
    “I thought we got a little fat and happy and they battled back,” Meiss said. “We’re really not super experienced. We have to learn to play with leads and with a little more poise.
    “We got some turnovers and pushed the lead again to double digits and we were able to sustain it a little better.”
    Schlipf came to the rescue for the Titans with two baskets for a 29-25 EPG lead. Halvorsen and Dylan Smith each added a trey as the lead grew to 36-29 by the start of the fourth quarter.
    The seven-point margin was the closest Pontiac got the rest of the way. Three-pointers from Weir and Alden Rutledge each cut the deficit to eight points.
    “We battled and we definitely saw some good things,” Martin said of his team. “I thought we did a nice job on Schlipf. We were really physical with him.”
    Schlipf had a solid game for the Titans with 15 points, 9 rebounds and 5 blocks. Halvorsen added 13 points while Smith and Weber each chucked home 9 points. Fairchild added 6 and Layden chipped in 5 points.
    El Paso-Gridley (15-8) won the battle of the boards 29-28 and actually had one more turnover than the Indians, 19-18.
    Weir had a game-high 16 points in leading the Indians. Carter Dawson added 10 points while Rutledge chipped in 7 and Cam Dawson hit for 5 points. Rich collected 4 points and 7 rebounds while Schuler also had 4 points.