Wheaton falls short against Pierce City in district play
The second-seeded Pierce City Eagles held off the seventh-seeded Wheaton Bulldogs 48-46 to advance in the Class 2, District 12 tournament on Feb. 19.
Pierce City couldn't shake the Bulldogs all night.
The Eagles built two 5-point (19-14, 32-27) and one 6-point (36-30) leads against the Bulldogs only to see the maroon and white dig their heels into the court and come storming back.
Wheaton mounted a 14-4 run over the last 6:32 of regulation to take an improbable 44-40 lead on a basket by Jory Bartkoski with 1:55 remaining in the game.
The Eagles countered the attack with a Cody Fitchpatrick layup and two free throws to tie the game 44-44 with 1:37 left.
On the Eagles' next possession, Colin Garner drove from the top of the key to the left side of the basket and flipped the ball up off the backboard and through the hoop to give the green and white a 46-44 lead.
"We fought all game long," said Wheaton coach Rusty Roe. "I couldn't ask for any more effort from my boys. They put us in position to win in the end. That is all a coach can ask for."
Tyler Musick quickly tied the score at 46-46 with a put-back after a missed free throw.
The Eagles countered with a single free throw with 47 seconds left in the game.
The Bulldogs rushed the ball down the floor and set their offense. An entry pass intended for Bartkoski was picked off by Garner, who was immediately fouled with only five seconds showing on the clock.
The steal was Garner's fourth theft of the game.
Garner converted the second of his two offerings at the charity stripe to give the Eagles a two-point (48-46) cushion.
A drive and desperation heave by Musick at the buzzer pinballed between the side of the rim and the backboard and fell harmlessly to the ground to secure the Pierce City win.
"We're disappointed about the loss," said Roe. "But it's nice to know we have raised the level of expectations at Wheaton to the point where we feel we can challenge for a district title every year."
The game was close throughout as the Eagles led 12-11 after one period and 21-20 at halftime.
The Eagles gathered steam in the third period and led 36-30 before Wheaton's Matt Hickman's 3-pointer at the buzzer sliced the lead in half.
Wheaton used baskets from Justin Walker, Chase Cantwell and Bartkoski to fuel a 10-0 spurt and lead 44-40.
|"Wheaton is always tough," said Street. "They weren't a typical seven seed. I have a lot of respect for Coach Roe and his players. Tonight was all about surviving."|
Scoring for Wheaton: Cantwell, 13 points; Hickman, 12; Bartkoski, 8; Darrel Burns and Walker, 4 each; Musick, 3; and Justin Yeary, 2.
Scoring for Pierce City: Fitchpatrick, 15 points; Kole Kelley, 9; Garner, 8; Zack Hyde, 7; Cedric O'Hara, 6; and Colton Drollinger, 2.