Eagle Point edges Crater to snap 5-year skid
Eagle Point may have gone into victory mode a little early against the visiting Crater Comets, but it was euphoria just the same at the final buzzer Tuesday night as the Eagles held on for a 68-59 triumph in a wild Class 5A boys basketball battle.
“The boys rose up to the occasion,” said EP head coach Ryan Marrs. “We’ve been working hard the last couple days to prepare for the game. They knew it was going to be a dogfight from start to finish and they never backed down. I’m so proud of them. Everybody had an important role and they played it well.”
The sixth-ranked Eagles led by as many as 16 points with about 5 1/2 minutes to play before withstanding a comeback by No. 5 Crater that cut the deficit to only one possession with two minutes remaining at Eagle Point High.
Despite the high drama, Alejandro Redondo knocked down a pair of free throws to give Eagle Point a breather at 61-57, and Tommy Johnson went 3-for-4 from the free-throw line down the stretch to help keep the Comets at bay.
“The biggest change for this year is we didn’t buckle and we were able to fight through to the end,” said Marrs.
Tuesday’s win allowed Eagle Point to snap a nine-game losing streak to their Midwestern League rivals, with the Eagles’ previous win coming in a 67-59 win on Jan. 10, 2017.
Brennen Neyt finished with 24 points to lead the Eagles (13-1, 6-0 MWL), while Caden Lasater had 16 for Crater (13-3, 5-2).
Johnson, a 6-foot-1 senior post, may very well have been EP’s unsung hero of the night. Johnson amassed 16 points and 22 rebounds, often limiting Crater to one shot per possession while giving his team second-chance opportunities with his relentless work inside.
“Tommy’s been a huge asset this year,” said Marrs. “The game that he had tonight, this is something we’ve been asking him to be since the start of the season. We knew it was in him and the game he had it just fired up everybody tonight because they all root for him and are excited for him. He was just a monster on the glass.”
Both teams came out swinging Tuesday.
Eagle Point and Crater were the models of efficiency early, trading baskets on nine of the first 10 possessions of the game in front of a nearly packed gym on both sides of the court.
“Start to finish it was a great game,” said Marrs, whose team faces another top-10 showdown at home Friday against No. 4 Churchill.
“To be in that atmosphere tonight,” he added, “this is something me and the coaching staff have been wanting since we started this a year and a half ago. To see everybody in the community show up, the boys fed off that energy all night long. I look forward to that happening again going forward.”
The Eagles ultimately were able to use 3-pointers from Redondo and Alex Smith to take a 20-16 advantage into the second period, where each team maybe was feeling their oats a little and the scoring cooled down after errant efforts.
Adan Quintero scored seven of his nine points in the first half, while Neyt dominated inside over the final three minutes of the half with three closing buckets to finish with 11 points in opening 16 minutes.
The second half quickly went the Eagles’ way, with the host team scoring the first five points out of the break to build a double-digit lead before Ashton Acrey halted the drought with a driving effort for Crater.
Johnson scored on putback efforts to close out the third quarter with Eagle Point ahead 45-37, and the early stages of the fourth quarter brought more of the same as Neyt scored a pair of baskets in the paint and Triston McGuire knocked down a free throw and a 3-pointer that brought the home crowd into a frenzy up 53-37.
After a timeout with EP up 53-39, the Eagles then began eschewing close-range shot attempts that they were freely taking — and making — earlier in the night, and it backfired to almost eliminate their scoring advantage.
Acrey’s driving basket with 4 1/2 minutes left ignited what would become a 16-3 run by the Comets, with Lasater scoring seven in the surge, to suddenly put doubt in an outcome that seemed all but decided moments earlier.
“That’s on me,” said Marrs. “I told the guys to try to slow it down and try to be a little more patient. With the adrenaline the way it was and excitement of the gym, it did speed (Crater) up a little up, which led to a momentum change.”
In a key series inside the final minute, Javon Smith was able to block a driving effort by Quintero — the first shot attempt by EP since the second minute of the fourth quarter — but Acrey’s cross-court pass deflected off Quintero as he hustled back into the play. The ball then bounded off the backboard and into the waiting hands of Johnson.
Two more free throws by Johnson built the lead to 63-57 before Colton Vranes and Quintero traded baskets. A missed 3-pointer by Vranes, one free throw by Johnson and another missed shot beyond the arc by Lasater led to a final celebratory moment for the Eagles as Redondo cashed in a layup at the final horn.
Vranes finished with 11 points and Smith had 10 for Crater, while Redondo scored nine and McGuire had seven for the Eagles.
CRATER (59): Acrey 5, Lasater 16, Vranes 11, Smith 10, L. Price 4, Idiart 6, Dutkiewicz 0, L. Higginson 0, K. Price 0, B. Higginson 0, Broesder 7. Totals: 21 7-13 59.
EAGLE POINT (68): Quintero 9, Smith 3, Dutton 0, Pierce 0, Neyt 24, Carlton 0, Johnson 16, McGuire 7, Redondo 9. Totals: 23 15-24 68.
Eagle Point20101523— 68
3-point goals — Crater 10 (Lasater 4, Vranes 1, Smith 2, Idiart 1, Broesder 1), Eagle Point 5 (Quintero 1, Smith 1, Neyt 1, McGuire 1, Redondo 1).
JV result — Crater won.
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