Prague outlasts Bethel in overtime for tournament title
BETHEL ACRES – When a leading scorer isn't firing on all cylinders, it's important for others to pick up the slack.
Such was the case Saturday night with the sophomore tandem of Blestin Miller and Peyton Ezell combining for 38 points and 12 of 17 field-goal shooting as the Prague Red Devils escaped with a 70-67 overtime decision over the host and Class 3A 16th-ranked Bethel Wildcats in the championship game of the First United Bank Classic at the B.E. Cantrell Fieldhouse.
Miller fired in 22 points on 6 of 9 shooting, including one 3-point jumper, and Ezell was 6 of 8 with one trey in finishing with 16 points as Prague placed four of its players in double figures in improving to 4-1 on the season. Miller and Ezell each drilled one 3-point basket.
The Red Devils' top scorer on the season – junior Nate Lester – struggled with his shooting, but still ended up chipping in 15 points and sophomore Eli Bias had a big game off the bench with 11.
“Even though we are young still, we've got sophomores and juniors, and nothing really rattles them,” said Prague head coach Nate Greer.
Miller grabbed eight rebounds and recorded a steal and Ezell yanked down five boards. Lester, who did manage to sink a pair of treys, was 5 of 8 from the foul line, pulled down seven rebounds and registered four steals. Bias was 5 of 9 from the floor, totaled five rebounds and compiled three steals.
“Bethel had a good game plan against Nate. It was hard for him to get open. I told Nate that he can affect games in other ways and he did tonight,” Greer said. “Ezell played his best game all year. It was nice to see him come out of his shell. Eli Bias played great minutes off the bench.”
The Wildcats, who suffered their first loss of the season in also going to 4-1, received a game-high 28 points from junior Gage Porter, who canned three 3-point shots in the game and was 7 of 8 from the free-throw line.
Drae Wood and Jesse Tucker each tallied 12 points as Wood was 4 of 7 from the floor and 4 of 5 from the line to go with five boards and a pair of steals. Tucker was 6 of 10 with five rebounds, two steals and a blocked shot.
John Gordon ended up with eight points, 11 rebounds and two steals before fouling out for Bethel late in regulation.
It was a tale of two quarters in the opening half. Bethel jumped out to a 15-6 advantage and settled for a 17-9 lead through the end of the first period. Prague then outscored the Wildcats 19-5 in the second in taking a 28-22 lead into intermission. The Red Devils even snatched a seven-point lead (43-36) going into the fourth.
That's when the game turned into a nip-and-tuck affair. Bethel outscored Prague 19-12 in the final quarter as the Wildcats forced overtime when Porter connected on a 23-footer with four seconds to go in regulation to make it 55-all, going into the extra session.
Bethel opened the overtime period with a conventional 3-point play from Wood. But the Red Devils, already in the double bonus, got four straight free-throw conversions from Miller to put Prague back on top, 59-58, with the second pair coming with 2:51 remaining.
Porter sank two charity tosses with 2:00 left to give the Wildcats their last lead at 60-59.
That's when the Red Devils closed the game with an 11-7 run. Trip Davis, who ended up with six points, seven rebounds and a steal, nailed a short-range shot and Lester executed an old-fashioned 3-point play when he cut down the gut of the lane for a layup.
Bethel once again made it too close for comfort when Porter landed another 23-footer to cut the deficit to one (64-63). Bias immediately retaliated with a bucket on the other end while Miller and Lester each calmly sank two free shots in the final 32 seconds to make it 70-65. Wood concluded the game's scoring with a driving runner off the glass with four seconds left.
Prague is scheduled to host McLoud Tuesday while Bethel will take a few weeks off for the holidays.
Byng 47, Tecumseh 44 (Boys' Third Place)
Parker Presley poured in a game-leading 24 points as the Pirates edged the Savages in the third-place game.
Tecumseh missed the front end of two one-and-one situations in the final minute as it was unable to get over the hump.
Jake Trice hit one 3-point basket in finishing with 16 points for the Savages and teammate Jay Mitchell supplied 12. Jose Lugo was next with six points.
Nine players got into the scoring column for Byng.
The two teams were deadlocked at 36 through three quarters.
The Savages, 1-4 on the season, are scheduled to play at Harrah Tuesday
Perkins-Tryon 42, McLoud 26 (Boys' Fifth Place)
The Redskins got off to a slow start and weren't able to recover as the Demons came away with the 16-point victory.
Gannon McCutchen converted five treys and finished with a game-high 20 points for Perkins-Tryon. Cutter Green followed with nine points and Quincey Mouton contributed seven.
Luke Norwood was the high scorer for McLoud with 13 as he scored 11 of those in the second half.
The Redskins are scheduled to play at Prague Tuesday.