After suffering through a brutal early season schedule, the Pratt High School boys’ basketball team notched their first victory of the season Tuesday night at home, a stirring come-from-behind effort over the Nickerson Panthers. The final was 44-35 Greenbacks.
Most of the game had the aesthetics one might expect out of two teams coming into the contest with one win between them. In other words, it wasn’t pretty. The first quarter was nearly a bloodless affair, Pratt getting only a little bit the better of it. The score stood just 4-2 with a minute left in the first stanza. Then Liam Kahmeyer and Skylar Dean each hit treys in the final minute to stake PHS to a 10-2 lead after Q1.
However, the second frame would belong to the Panthers as their full-court pressure created some opportunities for them. Even when Pratt did break the press, their shots weren’t falling. Nickerson had narrowed the gap to 16-13 at halftime. Pratt continued to guard hard, but they had gone cold offensively.
The third quarter looked like déjà vu all over again for the young Frogs. Several times this season, PHS has watched a halftime lead disintegrate in the closing quarters. The 3rd quarter was again disastrous as the Panthers went on a 17-4 run in that period to put themselves up by 10, 30-20, with 8 minutes left on the clock. Nickerson got after the offensive boards in Q3 and Pratt could not buy a bucket on their end to account for the third quarter scoring differential.
With 6:11 to play, Pratt looked dead in the water, behind 30-22. Head coach David Swank kept rotating players into the ballgame, exhorting them to change the tempo of the contest. “Nickerson controlled the tempo in the middle quarters,” Swank explained. “They are more of a ‘grind it out’ team. We had to get them into a faster pace.”
Spencer Sullivan began the Greenback surge, canning a 3 from the top of the key to cut the deficit to 5. The Frogs seemed energized from that point on, moving and trapping on defense and getting the Nickersons to throw the ball up into the cheap seats on several occasions. As Swank suspected, the Panthers were having trouble playing at the quicker speed.
The Greenback cause was also aided by the Panthers losing their tempers, as Nickerson was T’d up twice in the 4th quarter. Garret Smith knocked down 4 consecutive free throws on one play (a 1+1 and a T) and the Frogs were suddenly only trailing by a pair, 31-29.
After a Nickerson basket, Kahmeyer scored a tip-in and on Pratt’s next possession Smith connected on a three ball that gave Pratt the lead for the first time since early in the second quarter, 34-33. Nickerson made a couple of free throws, but then Smith struck again from 3 point land and it was 37-35 Pratt.
Page 2 of 2 - Nickerson would not score again in the game, but Pratt was not yet done. Skylar Dean got a steal, drive, lay-up, ‘and one’ to press the PHS lead to 5 with just over a minute to play. Desperate, Nickerson began bombing away ineffectually from long range, then fouling. The Greenbacks hit enough free throws to keep the Panthers at arm’s length—Thomas Mayberry, Skylar Dean and Shawn Ramos each connecting from the charity stripe down the stretch.
As the horn sounded Pratt had their first victory of the season, 44-35 over Nickerson. “That was a big win for our kids,” Coach Swank expressed. “We played well early, but then let Nickerson take charge in the middle quarters. To come back like we did in the fourth quarter was huge. We scored 24 points in that quarter, after we only had 20 in the previous three combined.”
With starting post man Chase Hageman in an orthopedic boot, Swank will need to keep mixing and matching to try to find effective combinations of players when the Greenbacks host Smoky Valley Friday night.
PRATT 10 6 4 24 44
NICKER 2 11 17 5 35
Garret Smith 2-0-5/6-11; Skylar Dean 3-1-2/4-11; Mayberry 0-0-3/4-3; Dobbs 1-0-1/1-3; Sullivan 1-1-0-5; Ramos 0-0-1/2-1; Liam Kahmeyer 3-1-1/2-10