EPC defeats Altheimer in season finale
Tribune Sports Staff
In a game that went back and forth all night, it was the play of EPC's seniors that made the difference in a 61-57 EPC victory over Altheimer last Friday night.
Both teams entered the game with many of the so-called experts, thinking that the team that shot the ball well and held up on turnovers would win the game. And EPC did not disappoint. Both teams each have had their share of support this year, as EPC went into the game ranked second in Class AAA, while Altheimer was ranked number one in Class AA in boys play.
With a full gym that was packed at least 45 minutes before the start of the game, EPC appeared to feed off the emotion of the crowd. After a slow start, the Warriors kicked it into high gear, going on a 13-6 run in the last five minutes of the first quarter, to take a 24-10 lead over Altheimer of the 6AA at the end of one quarter. The Devils fought back in the second quarter, going on a 15-6 run in a four-minute to cut into the EPC lead. A lay-up by Brandon Patterson cut the EPC lead to six (31-25) with 54.8 seconds left in the first half. However, EPC controlled the tempo in the remaining minute of the first half and took a 33-25 lead into the locker room at halftime.
In the second half, Altheimer began to move the basketball around and find open players on the fast break. Halfway through the third quarter, the Devils went on a 10-3 run, putting pressure on the EPC defense. Patterson, along with guard Darnell Manuel and forward Lewis Evans began to get the basketball inside for the number five team overall in the state of Arkansas. Altheimer turned a 13-point deficit late in the third quarter into a four-point deficit with 16.9 seconds left in the quarter.
The key play of the game came in the fourth quarter, when the momentum in the game changed minute-by-minute. EPC led off the quarter, by going on a 7-0 run, keyed by the play of Boo Collins and Keundre Joplin. The pair rebounded the ball well during that period and quickly turned those rebounds into baskets that expanded the EPC lead. EPC led by ten points twice in the fourth quarter, yet Altheimer attempted to make a comeback. A lay-in by Lewis Evans with 42.8 seconds left made the game a 57-55 game in favor of EPC. EPC was later able to capitalize on an Altheimer turnover and an over the back call on Patterson, with 11.3 seconds. With EPC in the bonus, Marcus Monk hit both free throws on the one and one to seal the win for EPC.
EPC Head Boys Coach Kevin Kyzer told the Tri-City Tribune that his team appeared out of sync at times, but fought back. Kyzer said, "We gave up a lot of offensive rebounds. However, we were helped by their turnovers late and our corresponding press offense." Kyzer added that in the second quarter, his team had fatigue and was timid on screens. But, he noted, "We got back in the fourth quarter. We pushed down the floor with passes and we ran the floor well." The win by EPC last Friday marks the second loss of the year to the Devils, with the other loss coming against EPC in the Mountain Home Tournament earlier this season.
The win at home last Friday concludes an amazing run by a group of players that have won 38 straight home games at Warrior Gym, including games against Altheimer, Gosnell and Osceola this year. Of playing at home and the wins, Kyzer said, "The gym has been nice. However, we have seemed to be better on the road. This year, we did not play a game at home until after Christmas. We had the chance to be road warriors this year. We have also done well on neutral courts this year."
EPC now enters the 3AAA-South Sr. District Tournament this week as the number one seed in the tournament. With the tournament underway at press time, the tournament features several tough teams, including EPC, Gosnell, Osceola and host Rivercrest. The top four teams from the division advance to the Class AAA Region 2 Tournament next week at Riverview.