Purdy looks inward, reflects after district title loss
Coach, team to take time off to seek answers
It was not the interviews that Eli Ernst, Purdy girls basketball coach, had hoped to have on Friday after a 57-48 district title loss to Pierce City in Sarcoxie.
But, Ernst fielded each question and he hugged each player as they left the make-shift Lady Eagles locker room.
“These girls are great players and we’ve had one heck of a year,” Ernst said. “Any time that God blesses you with the kind of season we were able to have, there’s no way you can hang your head very long. These seasons don’t come around very often, they should be celebrated. I don’t know if I’ll see 25-2 again. From an Xs and Os standpoint, you get to see kids progress and do things they couldn’t do before. This was just a special group, and it’ll be one I won’t forget.”
Purdy rode into the tourney with a state-ranking, 20-plus game winning streak and a ton of confidence.
The Lady Eagles doubled-up Thomas Jefferson to open tourney play, 62-31. Then held off a pesky McAuley team, 61-50 to set up a rematch with Pierce City, a team the Lady Eagles defeated earlier in the season.
Purdy raced out to a great start against Pierce City, taking an 8-2 lead, but then foul trouble stalled the team out and allowed Pierce City to grab a 12-11 lead at the end of the first period, which swelled to 27-22 by intermission.
“We got in a lot of foul trouble and that took us to some different situations and we had to do some different things,” Ernst said. “It seemed like we could never ride any momentum this game. We’d get it going, we’d get a big play and then it seemed like we’d foul or do something to stop it.”
After trailing by as many as nine in the third quarter, 35-26, Purdy junior Layne Skiles ignited a 7-0 spurt going into the fourth quarter. Skiles scored 17 of her 23 points in the second half after sitting out much of the first half due to foul trouble.
Purdy pulled within 2 in the fourth quarter, 47-45, on a Sami House layup. But, Pierce City responded with a 10-3 run to salt the game away.
Seniors Rion Boyd and Devyn Callahan finished the game with 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Ernst was asked about the foundation of next year’s team and about building toward the 2017-2018 season.
“Well, I’m going home, and I’m going to reflect,” he said. “It’ll take me a while before I process a good answer to that question. Through a lot of time, prayer and reflection, we’ll find it. I know these girls and they compete hard, and if you compete hard, you usually find your way back into the mix.”