A solid team effort guided the Elgin Public/Pope John boys basketball team to a 47-35 victory over Ewing in the opening round of the Subdistrict D2-5 tournament Monday at West Holt.
“It was a good team effort,” stated EPPJ senior Kyle Schumacher. “Everyone contributed in their own way. We all did our job and no one tried to do too much. We tried to shut them down on defense, work on offense and try not to force anything. That got everyone involved in their own ways.”
The Tigers got off to a hot start, taking a 6-0 lead in the first three minutes of play, and led 11-5 after the first quarter.
“We came out with really good energy and played under control,” commented Ewing coach Brett Kaczor. “We found away to get inside and hit a couple of outside shots to open up the lane for us to help us out. You wish that you could have sustained that for four quarters. You get the exact start you want, get a nice lead and seem like you have momentum. Then you hit a brick wall and we tried to dig ourselves out of a big hole."
EPPJ responded in the second with a 16-4 run to claim a 21-15 lead at the break.
“We came out a little slow,” spoke EPPJ junior Conor Ramold. “We wanted to crank up the intensity a little bit. We made sure we boxed out and forced them into one shot. We did alright.”
After Ryan Brummel's free throw cut the deficit to 5 to start the third, the Wolfpack used a 7-0 run to take a 28-16 advantage.
“It was pretty important,” noted EPPJ junior Adam Dreger on the Wolfpack’s third-quarter start. “It really gave us that step ahead to get the W.”
Ewing rallied in the fourth and drew as close as 6 following Dalton Rotherham's 3-pointer, but EPPJ pulled away for the victory.
“We kept digging back and clawing into the game,” Kaczor said. “It seemed like at every point we could have broke that thing open and tie it up or take the lead; we missed free throw, had a bad turnover or let them leak out for an easy layup. All of sudden you go from being down 6, to down 10 or 12 again. We spent all that energy working our way back into the game, then you’re back down to 12. It really wears on a kid, but our guys kept fighting. I can’t complain.”
Joey Wright led the Tigers with 9 points. Brummels and Wyatt Wagner each recorded 7 points, Rotherham accumulated 5 points, Xavier Hobbs contributed 3 points, while Connor Napier and Dominique Hobbs each pitched in 2 points.
All five EPPJ starters scored at least 5 points in the win. Schumacher paced the Wolfpack with 13 points, four assists and eight rebounds. Ramold tallied 11 points and four assists, Dreger netted 10 points, Colton Wright had 8 points and eight boards and RJ Lierman added 5 points.
“Everyone showed up, we rebounded like coach wanted us to and we scored when we needed to,” Wright remarked.
Ewing ends its season with a 2-20 record as seniors Joey Wright and Ryan Brummels played their final game for the Tigers.
“They mean more to this program than they could probably imagine,” Kaczor stated. “We told them in the locker room the wins and losses don’t matter. The stepping stone they put forth for our guys, especially for them because they had to play a lot since they were freshmen. They really matured and they took the roles of being leaders well. Hopefully our guys take that going forward and go off their leadership. Hopefully better things are to come.”
Elgin Public/Pope John (3-17) advances to the semifinals of the subdistrict tournament to face No. 1 seed Stuart Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. at West Holt.
“We know Stuart is a tough team,” Lierman concluded. “We have to come out strong like we did in the third quarter. We have to play our hearts out. Win or go home.”