It was expected by many that the 7th seeded (2-7) Pratt High School boys basketball team would simply take their whipping from 2nd seeded Ness City in the opening round of the St. John Midwinter Classic, fall into the consolation bracket and maybe scrounge out a win or two against the other also-rans.
But the Greenbacks seemed not to have gotten the memo, as they stunned the 2A 3rd ranked (9-1) Eagles 52-46 to advance to the tournament semi-finals against Macksville. The resurgent Greenbacks won their third straight game after starting the season 0-7.
Against Macksville on Friday night, the Greenbacks went down to defeat 58-53 in a game that was tight from start to finish.
The tourney opener against Ness City was an offensive explosion by PHS standards, who have had trouble putting points on the board at times this season. Not on Thursday night. The Frogs erupted for 19 tallies in the opening stanza— Chase Hageman scoring inside, Skylar Dean scoring in transition, and Garret Smith bombing away from long range accounting for most of the damage. The Frogs were up 19-12 at the end of Q1.
Ness City clawed their way back into the game, trailing only 30-27 at the break. The third quarter was a low-scoring, evenly matched affair, each side only able to manage 7 points. The Greenbacks carried a 37-34 advantage into the decisive quarter.
Pratt got up by 10 with 4 minutes left to play, largely on the strength of some incredibly lengthy 3s by Garret Smith. Ness City would not go quietly, however, and their quick-striking ability allowed them to cut the lead back to a pair, 48-46, with a minute and a half to play. The Greenbacks did not crack under the pressure, as Skylar Dean slashed to the hoop for a couple of baskets down the stretch, then hit a pair of free throws to ice the contest. Final: 52-46 Frogs.
“I was proud of our kids tonight,” PHS head coach David Swank said. “ They are so coachable. We ran some plays tonight that we had never done in practice. I just drew them up during time-outs and the kids ran them to perfection.”
“The kids executed our game plan,” Swank continued. “It helped when (Ness City’s) Gantz got in foul trouble. Garret (Smith) didn’t just score for us tonight, either. He really battled on the backside of the boards against kids a lot bigger than him, and came down with some big rebounds,”
Pratt’s bench gave some solid minutes, a plus in a tournament where three straight nights of basketball has a tendency to take away a teams’ legs.
The Greenbacks were able to navigate the Eagles’ vaunted pressure defense— and not just break it, but score against it. “Our philosophy is to attack pressure,” Swank said. “If you don’t score against pressure, they’re just going to keep pressuring. We were able to get them out of their pressure by attacking the basket and scoring when they pressed us.”
Page 2 of 2 - The biggest difference in the game was, Pratt simply outshot the Eagles. Turnovers and rebounds were even, but Pratt’s shooting percentage, particularly from behind the arc, was just too much for the Eagles to overcome. Pratt made an eye-popping 8/16 from 3 point land. The difference between that and Ness City’s 6/22 accounted for the difference in the ballgame.
Pratt 19 11 7 15 52
Ness 12 15 7 12 46
Garret Smith 22; Skylar Dean 16; Hageman 8; Mayberry 2; Dobbs 2; Bartel 2
In the semi-finals against Macksville, things kind of evened out for the Greenbacks. Shots that had fallen the night before were rimming out, bounces weren’t going their way. Macksville was hot from 3 point land in the first half, hitting a trey at the buzzer to take a 15-13 lead after 1 stanza. The game was tied at 29 at the intermission.
Pratt underwent a cold snap in the 3rd frame, and Macksville went up 41-36. Down the 4th quarter stretch, the Mustangs hit free throws with unerring accuracy and Pratt could not catch up. Final: 58-53 Macksville. Pratt plays Central Plains for 3rd place at 6:30 p.m.
Pratt 13 16 7 17 53
Macks 15 14 12 16 58
Smith 14; Dean 19; Mayberry 2; Hageman 2; Kahmeyer 7; Kurz 2; Shumway 4; Sullivan 3