Eagles epitomize team concept
Group effort sends Purdy to sectionals
As the final 90 seconds ticked off the game clock, Purdy Coach Tommy Egan was not even looking at the action on the floor.
He was too busy walking down his bench giving each and every player a hug and personalized message.
"I was just telling them how much I loved them and how proud I was of them," Egan said. "They played their hearts out, and I could not have been prouder of a group of players."
Purdy led 14-13 late in the first before using a 15-0 run to take a 29-13 lead with 6:10 remaining in the second quarter. The Eagles would not allow McAuley Catholic to challenge the cushion the remainder of the game, holding on for 83-64 district title victory.
Not many outside of the town of Purdy had given the No. 3 seed Eagles a chance to upset the No. 1 seed Warriors. After all, they had failed twice, 62-60 and 73-72, against the taller opponent earlier this season.
In both of those games, Purdy faded down the stretch and could only watch as its foe tasted the sweet nectar of victory.
"Our last game [with McAuley] was definitely in the back of our minds," said Jonatan Salazar, senior point guard. "Coach [Egan] just told us to keep our focus on each other. We have to play as a team in order to win games, and that is what we did."
The Eagles are not blessed with an abundance of height, yet they are 19-8 on the season. According to Egan, they win games by speeding teams up, getting steals and playing suffocating defense. The Warriors on Friday had a height advantage at every position, yet the heart and fight in the Eagles more than compensated for the disadvantage, according to Egan.
"Tonight's game is the perfect example of the type of ball we have to play to win games," he said. "I knew we were capable of playing it, but everything just clicked. For four quarters, we controlled things on both ends of the floor. We hit shots early and relaxed. We trusted each other on the floor."
Salazar was a big piece to the puzzle. He battled foul trouble in both regular season losses to the Warriors, but managed to stay out of
the trap on Friday.
"We try to put our all into every night," Salazar said. "It's kind of hard sometimes not to get called for a foul. Tonight, the ball bounced our way. It takes all of us to win games. I just wanted to do my part."
Egan said his guard's presence on the floor makes things run efficiently.
"Jonatan is a selfless player," Egan said. "He is a team guy and knows how to make things happen with or without the ball. We play a crazy pace on the floor, but he is the guy that smooths things out and makes it tick."
One thing Egan and Salazar agreed helped in the championship was the raucous crowd from their hometown.
"Oh my goodness, they were awesome," Salazar said. "In the first quarter, we made that little run, and we just fed off their energy. You could tell it rattled [McAuley]. All that did was make me want to play harder and go faster."
Egan echoed his senior's sentiment.
"We have the best fans, bar none," Egan said. "They always travel well to support us. They created an awesome environment tonight. I am just so happy that we could reward them with a win."
The district title was the first for Purdy since 2008. The reward is a sectional playoff game against Marionville (19-10) in Nixa on Wednesday at 7:45 p.m. The Comets upset Crane, 44-40, to arrange the meeting.
"I don't know much about the Comets," Egan said. "But, I'm going to hit the tape hard tomorrow. We'll be prepared come Wednesday."