"I don't think I can find the right words for what this title means to our community," said Wheaton coach Rusty Roe. "You look at the huge crowd we had here tonight, I saw men wearing hats that say Wheaton Bulldogs that are from the 70s. The boys worked hard, and our fans were great."
Purdy, who finished the season 18-10, was matched against its Ozark 7 Conference rival for the fourth time this season. Wheaton had won the previous three meetings.
"I thought our boys played with passion and heart," said Purdy coach Tommy Egan. "We had a chance late in the game, but we couldn't get over the hump."
The two teams battled to a 10-10 tie at the end of the first period. Wheaton outscored Purdy 11-7 in the second period to take a 21-17 lead into halftime.
"We knew this was going to be a tough ball game," said Roe. "I thought the difference though was Bubba Galvan. He's just a great athlete, and tonight, he dominated the boards on both ends of the floor."
Wheaton used a 11-3 run to start the third period to generate separation on the scoreboard. The Eagles struggled to get open looks at the basket, while the Bulldogs extended possessions with offensive rebounds. After three quarters of play, Wheaton held a 34-25 lead.
The Eagles made a run to start the fourth quarter, getting two quick baskets from Cody Hall. Hall's third basket of the quarter pulled the Eagles to within four points at 35-31 with 5:17 to play. The Eagles twice missed golden opportunities to cut into the four-point lead but failed to connect on three free-throw attempts.
Purdy finished four of 12 at the charity stripe.
"Free throws have been a problem for us all year long," said Egan. "We now turn our attention to next year. We had a great offseason last year, and we will need another great offseason this year. It has been a long time since a Purdy boys team has played for a district title. I feel like we are headed in the right direction."
"The boys tonight responded positively every time we were challenged," said Roe. "It might have been a big shot or a big rebound, but we responded."
Scoring for Wheaton were: Sean Goosetree, 15; Galvan and Jesse Mitchell, 10 each; Kyle Robbins and Tyler Musick, 3 apiece; and Jory Bartkoski, 2.
Scoring for Purdy were: Drew Williams, 8; Cody Hall, 7; Devon Bennett and Garen Nelson, 6 each; Alex Haworth, 4; and Cameron Terry and Brent Cornman, 3 apiece.
The Bulldogs improved to 23-5 on the season and will face Billings in the Class 2 quarterfinals on Wednesday. Billings defeated Springfield Greenwood 78-63 in the Class 2, District 11 championship. Tipoff is slated for 7:45 p.m.