'What If' game

Wednesday, February 17, 2016
Purdy's Jonatan Salazar scores before getting fouled during varsity action on Friday against McAuley Catholic. Jared Lankford sports@cassville-democrat.com

Homecoming setback a bitter pill to swallow

With just one game left in the regular season, the Purdy boys basketball team hosts Exeter on Thursday.

Tyler Keeler attempts to speed past a McAuley Catholic defender during varsity action on Friday. Jared Lankford/sports@cassville-democrat.com

The Eagles are seeking to move forward and head into the district tournament with a full head of steam.

The team's momentum was stalled a bit with a 74-73 Homecoming loss to McAuley Catholic on Friday. The setback left the team and coaches drained after the varsity tilt. What made it sting even more was the Eagles were left playing the "What If" game.

What if they had hit the shot at the buzzer? What if they had made one more stop? What if they had secured one more rebound? No one knows the answers to these question, which is what haunted the squad after the contest.

"This game is going to sting for a while," said Tommy Egan. "We got what we wanted, and we just didn't have enough to finish."

Why the outcome carried such weight and emotion revolved around the fact that the Eagles and Warriors are in the same district bracket. McAuley landed the No. 1 seed and Purdy the No. 3.

Purdy rallied from and 11-point second quarter deficit to take a 7-point lead into the fourth quarter.

Point guard Jonatan Salazar made all the difference. When he went to the bench with foul trouble in the second quarter, the Warriors built a lead. When he picked up a fourth foul in the third period, McAuley erased the Eagles' lead.

"Jonatan has become the leader on this team," Egan said. "He makes things happen with the ball and he makes play without the ball. He has to stay on the floor during big games."

In addition to Salazar's growth, Egan noted the development of Tyler Keeler in his scoring ability, and Justin LaNore's growing minutes off the bench.

"The thing that we can point to is that we only have to make minor changes," Egan said. "We aren't headed toward districts with major questions about who we are and what we need to do. We just have to become better at what we have established."

Scoring for Purdy against McAuley: Keeler, 26; Luis Cruz, 15; Salazar, 12; Raul Garcia, 11; LaNore, 6; Hunter Cook, 2; and Sydney Birge, 1.

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