Girls' Basketball: P-C’s latest upset bid falls short as #6 Exira-EHK pulls out significant conference win
By BRANDON HURLEY
CHURDAN - Almost.
Carmyn Paup’s fourth quarter three-pointer, which would’ve cut once double-digit deficit to six, frustratingly bounced off the rim, silencing a promising rally.
To the casual observer, it was an insignificant moment with more than seven minutes left in the contest. But in reality, it initiated a pivotal shift in momentum during a key Rolling Valley Conference matchup.
A showdown between the top two teams was hanging in the balance, and the visitors had just dodged a bullet. They’d certainly take advantage. The sixth-ranked Exira-EHK Spartans did just that, using an 11-2 run to extinguish the Rockets hopes of an upset, escaping with an eventual 17-point win.
The Paton-Churdan girls’ basketball team certainly had its moments Tuesday night. The opportunities were there.
In the end, the Rockets proved they belonged among the Rolling Valley Conference’s elite despite a 64-47 loss to the undefeated Exira-EHK Spartans.
The lopsided final score certainly doesn’t tell the whole story, as P-C hung with one of the state’s best for most of the contest Tuesday night. It was a battle for first place in the RVC, with Exira-EHK, now 10-0 in league play, holding a two game edge over the veteran-laden Rockets, who entered the night with an 8-1 league record, riding a six-game conference win streak. It was certainly a showcase worth the top-billing, a pair of the hottest teams around.
For a few moments throughout the 32-minute slugfest, it lived up to the hype. Eventually, the Spartans’ vaunted full-court press and timely three-point barrages prevailed.
Tuesday night’s performance was encouraging, to say the least, and though the Rockets didn’t come out on top, it was a great measuring stick for an experienced program with hopes of making noise in the postseason.
“I think we are getting better defensively,” Paton-Churdan head coach Tom Kennedy said. “Maybe not so much tonight, but (Exira-EHK) is a good team. They move the ball well. But I think we are handling the ball better, too. We struggled with that earlier in the year against them, but I think our team passing is better and we are really unselfish.
I think that’s what has led to our success.”
The Jan. 19 rematch was drastically different than a month prior, when the undefeated Spartans, who are riding 14-game winning streak, absolutely dismantled P-C by 38 points. This one was destined to be more competitive, and the Rockets certainly proved so. The hometown team clearly opened the contest as a motivated unit, drilling four three-pointers (two each from Carmyn Paup and Chloe Berns) while compiling an 11-2 run for a seven-point advantage, leading 20-13 after the opening eight minutes.
All signs pointed toward a riveting upset until it quickly began unraveling. The Rockets scored just four second quarter points while the visiting Spartans tallied 21 of their own, surging out ahead.
P-C’s brief lead quickly evaporated when their shots stopped falling and turnovers piled up. Exira-EHK implemented their traditional suffocating, full-court press, which sent the Rockets into a bit of a tizzy, struggling to find the open teammate on many occasions, resulting in easy Spartan baskets. The momentum of the contest no longer belonged to P-C, a notion they’d never regain.
“I thought (Exira-EHK) executed against our defense really well,” Kennedy said. “We couldn’t stop a few of their things. We probably didn’t adjust well enough to it. Hopefully we can do a better job of taking care of the ball, because I think that’s what hurt us, turnovers.”
The Spartans led by 10 at the halftime break (34-24) thanks to a dominant, half-ending 19-2 run. The defense absolutely ravaged the P-C ball-handlers, transitioning the pressure into several fast break opportunities. Exira-EHK extended their advantage to 12 in the third quarter before P-C finally woke up. The Rockets scored 14 points over an eight-minute span, but could only trim the deficit to nine (47-38). The defense had tightened, forcing three consecutive Spartan turnovers, though the usually consistent Rocket offense couldn’t convert.
The opening sequence of the fourth quarter, which began with a missed three and ended with an easy Spartan bucket, was the tale of the final period. Exira-EHK used the next few minutes to pad their lead, tallying an 11-2 run, extending their advantage to 18-points midway through the frame (58-40). By then, the Spartans’ intensity as well as a dissolving game clock spelled doom for the hometown Rockets.
“We did some good things offensively. We just have to take care of the ball,” Kennedy said. “I thought we competed, but we just didn’t execute well enough. They were a little better than us tonight.”
The loss dropped Paton-Churdan to 10-3 overall and 8-2 in conference play, retaining their stranglehold on second place in the RVC. Exira-EHK improved to 14-0 overall. CAM is third in the RVC with a 7-3 record and 9-3 overall.
Paton-Churdan’s Danielle Hoyle led the Rockets in scoring with 19 points, 13 of which cam in the second half, while Carmyn Paup chipped in 13 points, including a trio of three-pointers. Hoyle is now second in Class 1A in scoring average, dipping to 22.6 points per game. Her unique passing ability was on display Tuesday, as she kicked it out of the post a number of times for wide-open threes.
Lamoni’s Abby Martin leads the state with a per game average of 24.6.