EPG-Prairie Central basketball

    Dylan Smith buried a 3-pointer from the right corner to ignite a 10-point run and push El Paso-Gridley forward to a 77-57 boys’ basketball win over Prairie Central at the Titan Center Tuesday night.
    Although EPG led for all but 26 seconds of the game, the Titans were getting pushed in the second half and a seemingly easy blowout was getting rather close.
    “They played hard and took advantage of opportunities,” EPG head coach Nathaniel Meiss said of Prairie Central. “When we got a little bit of a lead they didn’t stop fighting.”
    El Paso-Gridley put up 25 points in the first quarter with the help of a 16-3 run in the middle four minutes. The Titans maintained a double-digit lead, building it up to 37-20 with 3:15 to go in the first half after a Smith score, before Prairie Central rallied.
    But the Hawks began a rally that did not cool over the halftime break. Trey Seeman nailed a 3-pointer for PC with three minutes left in the second quarter that triggered an 8-0 run to close out the half.
    Seeman added a free throw while Keegan Stein made a pair of free throws and Jake Bachtold scored on a scoop layup just before the horn, cutting the margin to 47-38.
    Seth Reed scored on a put-back to make it 39-32 just 84 seconds into the second half. EPG pushed the lead to 45-32 after a Jack Weber score. PC got a timeout as it appeared the time had come for EPG to pull away.
    That didn’t happen, not yet, anyway. The Hawks went on a 9-3 run that trimmed the deficit to 48-41. Peyton Rigsby capped the spurt with a layup after an EPG turnover with 3:34 to go in the third quarter.
    But then EPG worked the ball on the offensive end and Smith was left open in the right corner, where he calmly swished a 3-point shot to get the lead to 51-41 with 3:08 remaining in the period.
    Hub Halvorsen added two free throws after a PC turnover and Smith converted a three-point play before taking a pass From Teron Fairchild and completing a fastbreak chance to complete the 10-point run, which took all of 47 seconds.
    “It exploded on us. They’re a good team pushing the ball up the court and that’s as good an inside team as we’ve seen,” PC head coach Alan Dunahee said. “They pass the ball well and crash the boards. They’re big and they’re physical.”
    El Paso-Gridley got a huge boost from the perimeter players like Smith and Halvorsen. But it was the play of Weber, Aaron Steiner, Fairchild and Noah Smith that was the difference.
    “One thing we hoped would be our strength would be our size,” Meiss said. “They’re filling new roles so we they’re still learning and getting better. We just hope it continues.
    “We’re trying to get them to be a little tougher, a little more aggressive down there. I think we’re getting a little energy going to the boards, especially Aaron, I think he had 14 boards, which puts at about 44 for the last three games.”
    Prairie Central only had Seth Reed to counter the EPG size — Weber is listed at 6-foot-5, Steiner goes 6-3 and Noah Smith is 6-4. Reed is listed at 6-foot. Regulars Eddie Shumaker (6-6, illness) and Noah Lewallen (6-1, injury) weren’t able to play.
    “Not the best team to have our two big boys out, but we did battle,” Dunahee said. For the size we had, they gave what they could.”
    Dunahee also pointed out that his Hawks, playing a 2-3 zone for the first time this season, had trouble stopping the Titans from penetrating the paint area early. It was evident as EPG put up 25 points in the first period.
    Steiner led El Paso-Gridley (9-1) with 22 points and 14 rebounds. Halvorsen added 15 points with Dylan Smith throwing in 13 points. Weber collected 12 points and 8 boards and Fairchild netted 8 markers. Silas Steiner had 4 points and Noah Smith added 2.
    Stein and Reed each had 11 points for the Hawks (4-5). Steidinger chipped in 9 with Rigsby tallied 8 markers. Bachtold had 5 points and was followed by Jake Crane and Seeman with 4 points apiece. Byrne had 3 and Collier Palmore threw in 2 points.