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Saxony uses defensive pressure to ground Eagles
The Crusaders used a 10-0 run in the fourth to put away East Prairie.
Saxony Lutheran senior Austin Kwikkel said his team sketched out a strategy for slowing down the fast-paced East Prairie squad it faced Saturday.
"We talked about not pressing them because they were quick, a lot quicker than we are," Kwikkel said.
The Crusaders held to their defensive plan for most of the contest.
But when they fell behind by six points with 5 minutes, 40 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, Kwikkel said Saxony coach John Daniel drew up a new plan.
The Crusaders started to press the Eagles and did it with success. They went on a 10-0 run over the next 4:25 to come away with a 47-43 victory against East Prairie at the 13th annual Tiger Shootout at Central.
"We started pressuring them, they made some bad passes and we crawled back in there," Kwikkel said. "We never hung our heads down. We came together as a team in the end. That's what we are good at."
Max Wieser led Saxony with 19 points, including five in the fourth quarter.
Kwikkel netted nine points, grabbed seven rebounds and also made a crucial steal during his team's 10-0 run. Junior Bret Steffens added nine points and grabbed nine rebounds.
The teams exchanged leads through the first three quarters, but it appeared that East Prairie was pulling away with 5:40 remaining in the fourth.
It was at this time that East Prairie 6-foot-4 junior Jacob Garrett looked to give his team momentum when he went to the basket, made his shot and also drew a foul. He then converted his free throw for the three-point play to put the Eagles ahead 39-33.
But Daniel and Saxony had a different idea.
"Coach told us we needed to pick it up," Steffens said. "When he called that timeout, we switched our defense. ... They panicked a little bit, and we went on a little run there, and we got back in the game."
Wieser hit a field goal to bring the score to 39-35 with 5:10 remaining.
"He played great all day," Steffens said of Wieser's effort. "He kept attacking the basket and going to the basket, and that's what we needed to do against the 2-3 zone."
Wieser then helped his team pull closer 15 seconds later when he made a nifty pass to Kwikkel, who scored to make it 39-37.
"Coach told us when they got up 39-33 to pick it up, and that penetration is how we were going to score from now on," Wieser said. "Me and Bret Steffens are the main penetrators on the team. We just started penetrating a lot more, and they started focusing more on our cuts to the middle. They came up on me and left Kwikkel wide open underneath the basket. So I just gave him a little dump down."
Steffens then continued Saxony's strong run, scoring a basket 30 seconds later to tie the game 39-39.
The Crusaders gained the lead when Steffens found Kwikkel down in the paint. Kwikkel got fouled and converted 1-of-2 free throws to make it 40-39.
Kwikkel responded with a steal and passed it ahead to Ben Courtois, who scored to give Saxony a 42-39 advantage.
"It was a free ball and I came in and I got it," Kwikkel said. "Off my back foot, I kind of got it down there to him quick enough, and he went down and finished well."
From there, Saxony did a nice job converting its foul shots -- making 7-of-10 in the final period -- to pull away for the four-point win.
East Prairie's Tony Jones scored a game-high 21 points.
"It just seemed like we started making mistakes," Jones said of Saxony's press. "More mistakes when they started putting the pressure on us. It ain't like we couldn't break the press, though."
East Prairie (43) -- M.C. Williams 11, Ryan Jones 2, Dustin Caldwell 6, Jacob Garrett 3, Tony Jones 21. FG 18, FT 1-1, F 17 (3-pointers: Williams 3m Jones 1. Fouled out: none)
Saxony Lutheran (47) -- Garrett Ruppel 2, Zack Bohnert 6, Bret Steffens 9, Max Wieser 19, Ben Courtois 2, Austin Kwikkel 9. FG 14, FT 17-24, F 4 (3-pointers: Wieser 2. Fouled out: none)