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Prairie Heights boys crush Hamilton

Prairie Heights claimed a share of the 2013-14 NECC boys basketball championship last Friday with a 42-26 victory at Hamilton.

Coach Brett Eltzroth’s Panthers concluded their league slate with a 9-1 record, the same mark forged by Westview. Heights edged its county rival, 56-54 back on February 13 in Brushy Prairie.

The NECC crown is only the second won by the Panther hoops program. The 1986-87 Prairie Heights squad coached by Tim Holcomb earned the first and only other conference title. Ironically, that Panther club also shared the title with Westview.

Though they held the lead for all but a few seconds of the contest, the Panthers had trouble shaking off a pesky Hamilton crew on its Senior Night. A three-point play by one those upperclassmen honored – Gage Law – pulled the Marines within two (22-20) late in the third period.

Then came one of the biggest plays of the game. Hamilton got the ball back with a chance to tie or go ahead, but Panther senior Levi Tuckerman stepped in front of a pass and raced to the other end and converted the steal into a basket.

Tuckerman’s gem seemed to jump-start Prairie Heights, as it scored eight of the next 10 points to take a 32-22 lead. The Panthers were able to cruise home to victory from there.

Jacob Heller tossed in 16 points to pace the Heights attack. He and Zach Shepard led the winners on the glass with 10 rebounds apiece.

Colton Rose topped Hamilton with 11 points.

The Panthers take a 14-6 overall record into sectional play this week at Westview. They meet 5-15 Fremont in the opening round Tuesday at 6 p.m.