PRAGUE – Coach Nate Greer and the Red Devils of Prague are now lossless in their last eight games after beating McLoud 53-47 in a grudge match at Prague Tuesday night to cap off the first round of the 66 Conference Tournament.
Prague hurdled ahead in the second half with seven unanswered points to close out the third and take a 40-30 lead into the fourth. The difference, Greer said, was before then too many shots were being outside and he wanted to see his guys in the paint more.
“We finally did that towards the end of the third quarter and it really helped us to build our lead,” he said.
Chase Mahtapene put up four quick points for McLoud to start the fourth and Brandon Vinson drained a three with 5:11 left to get within five, but a 6-0 solo run by Gage Cantrell pushed the Red Devils back ahead, 50-40 with three minutes left to play. Cantrell scored 12 points in the contest and eight of those came in the fourth quarter.
Vinson and Garret Wilson made back-to-back buckets in the first to take a 7-5 lead – it ended up being McLoud's last of the game. Ray Embry came down with an offensive board and got the putback, Isaac Bloomer got a steal and an easy layup and followed with an assist to Zadden Jones to close out a 6-0 run and end the first with an 11-7 advantage.
The Redskins fought back to tie at 26 with 6:08 left in the third, but Jones countered with a shot of his own and Brady Thorpe drained a three to ignite the Red Devils with 4:44 to go in the quarter. Thorpe has been improving his game and hitting big shots lately and Greer has noticed a boost in morale from him and the rest of the squad.
“He's been hitting some three's the last few games and finally getting some confidence,” he said. “All of them are getting more confidence here and there and it's showing.”
Scoring was evenly spaced for Prague. Jones topped the squad with 14 points, Cantrell and Bloomer each had 12 and Thorpe finished with 10 and had three treys.
Greer can count on any one of his guys to go off on any given night or for several at a time to put up big numbers, making them a threat to any challenger.
“I love that... When we get four guys with 14 or 15, we're going to be hard to beat,” he said. “Earlier in the year when we were struggling there were like two people who were scoring. And now starting to get so many people involved, it's showing.”
Wilson led all scorers while Mahtapene had 15 and Vinson finished with 14. McLoud had no other scorers.
The lack of any scoring help is something that Redskins coach Tim Boyer has been working on improving with his squad and presses that if they aren't contributing with buckets, they need to find some way to be involved in the action.
“One of the big things we're trying to preach on right now is that, if you know you're not going to get a shot, go get the offensive rebound,” he said. “That's getting your own shot. So those other guys have got to do a better job of finding a way to produce on the offensive end.”
Prague (10-4) will face off with No. 14 in Class 4A Seminole (10-2) Friday at 8 p.m. in the semifinals of the tournament and McLoud (1-9) will face Holdenville Thursday at 8 in the consolation side of the bracket.