In the end, Prairie Heights just ran out of time.
Trailing Bremen by as many as 16 points late in the first half, the Panthers staged a furious rally in the fourth period which put the boys from Brushy Prairie a couple of plays away from completing the stunning comeback in the first round of the Westview sectional Tuesday evening.
The Lions, however, were able to stem the Panther tide and a three-point play by Austin Huff with 23 seconds left sealed a 51-48 Bremen victory.
“We just dug ourselves too big of a hole,” said Panther coach Brett Eltzroth, whose club finishes the season 5-18. “But I love the fight our kids showed. They could have easily rolled over when we got behind in the first half, but they didn’t. It’s been like that all year.”
Rebounding by the Lions was the biggest problem for Prairie Heights in the first half. Bremen converted six offensive boards into baskets while building a 26-10 lead.
“Our defense would make them miss their initial shot, but they (Bremen) would get the rebound and score,” Eltzroth observed.
A three-point play by Dylan Stayner at the end of the first half narrowed the Bremen lead to 12 (28-16). The Panthers carried the momentum over into the third quarter, scoring 11 of the first 13 points to pull within five (30-25).
Heights turned up the defensive heat on Bremen in the fourth quarter, applying full-court pressure that resulted in several Lion turnovers. Kyler West’s steal and layup with 2:40 remaining pulled the Panthers within two (42-40).
“We haven’t used the press a lot during the season, but we got some good things from it tonight,” Eltzroth cited. “We needed some of that defensive intensity in the first half.”
Bremen responded a few seconds later when Ethan Pike swished the first of two free throws. Pike missed the second, but the Panthers could not corral the rebound. Jacob Box wound up with the ball after a wild scramble and his subsequent three-point play gave Bremen a 46-40 lead with 2:21 to go.
“That play was kind of a back-breaker,” said Eltzroth of Box’s bucket and free throw.
Jacob Heller’s triple with three seconds left closed the difference to three (51-48). But with no timeouts left, the Panthers had to watch Bremen hold the ball out of bounds while the final few ticks agonizingly evaporated from the clock.
Heller capped off a phenomenal freshman campaign with a 27-point effort. West followed him on the Panther scorecard with 12 markers.
For Bremen (7-14), which will take on Fremont (15-6) in the semifinals this Friday, Pike and Huff led the way with 18 and 16 points, respectively.
Prairie Heights 48
Scoring by quarters
PH 6 10 11 21 -48
BR 17 11 7 16 -51
Ryan Day 1, 0-0, 2; Kyle West 5, 1-1, 12; Jackie Owens 0, 0-0, 0; Landon Wohlers 0, 0-0, 0; Jacob Heller 11, 3-5, 27; Tyler Carbone 1, 0-0, 2; Woody Riha 0, 0-0, 0; Zach Shepard 0, 0-2, 0; Dylan Stayner 1, 3-3, 5; Tom Beiswanger 0, 0-0, 0; Totals 19, 7-11, 48
Three-point field goals 3 (Heller 2, West 1); Team Fouls 13 (Fouled Out: None)
Ben Hueni 0, 2-2, 2; T.J. Bayer 0, 1-2, 1; Ethan Pike 6, 4-5, 18; Jacob Box 3, 1-1, 7; Tim Zimmer 1, 0-0, 2; Austin Huff 6, 4-5, 16; Dillon Mullen 0, 0-0, 0; Mitch Huppert 2, 1-4, 5; Totals 18, 13-19, 51
Three-point field goals 2 (Pike 2); Team Fouls 14 (Fouled Out: None)