Although it wasn't a conference game, the Pilot Grove boys and girls basketball team treated Tuesday night's opener in the Pilot Grove Classic against the Prairie Home Panthers as such while winning by the scores of 64-54 and 65-51, respectively.
Of course the Pilot Grove-Prairie Home matchup wasn't the only games on tap Tuesday night. In earlier games, the Tuscumbia girls defeated Stover 65-37 while the Stover boys edged Tuscumbia in overtime by a score of 59-57.
Tournament action will continue tonight, with Stover girls and boys playing Prairie Home at 4:30 and 6 p.m. and Pilot Grove girls and boys battling Tuscumbia at 7:30 and 9.
Pilot Grove coach Landon Daniel said his team knew going into the game that they needed to push the ball and shoot open shots.
"I thought we really gid a good job of that," Daniel said. "Kerigan and Melissa both stepped up and became the scoring leaders that they need to be on this team. We still had too many turnovers so we still have a ways to go but overall I'm pretty proud of the girls' effort."
While combining for 116 points, the Pilot Grove Lady Tigers and Prairie Home Panthers also had their moments on defense while forcing their opponent outside of their realm. The only problem is that Prairie Home had fewer of those moments while turning the ball over 33 times compared to 23 for Pilot Grove.
But even then the Lady Panthers led Pilot Grove at one point in the first quarter by a score of 12-10 after a basket by senior Kendra Stinson at the 1:50 mark.
Unfortunately for the Lady Panthers, they had no real answer for Pilot Grove after that while surrendering five straight points to closeout the first period and seven straight at the beginning of the second quarter to trail by a score of 22-12 with 7:03 left.
The Lady Tigers never trailed after that while leading Prairie Home 35-25 at the half.
The second half was a carbon copy of the first-two periods, with the Lady Tigers reeling off 10 straight in the third quarter to make it a 20 point ballgame at 47-27 with 6:00 remaining. Pilot Grove also outscored Prairie Home 18-12 to extend the lead to 16 at 53-37.
The Lady Panthers didn't give up the fight, though. Despite trailing by 20 (57-37) at the 7:12 mark in the fourth, Prairie Home battled back and cut the lead to 14 on two different occasions.
The Lady Panthers also outscored Pilot Grove 14-12 in the final period.
Despite the loss, which dropped Prairie Home to 1-2 on the season, head coach Linda Scott said the girls had a good night on the offensive end of the floor.
"We shot 40 percent from the field and scored 51 points, yet we had a lot of good chances to score more points," Scott said. "They just didn't go in the basket. I thought we were tough on the defensive boards with 22 rebounds, and I thought we moved the ball well on offense. We got the shots we wanted both inside and out. We were just two steps behind on defense all night. We allowed them to do whatever they wanted with the ball.
"When we played zone they hit the threes and then when we played man they drove to the basket. The first-two minutes of the second half did us in, though. Again, I thought we looked really good at times. Late in the game we started driving to the basket, something we must improve on in order to get the other team in foul problems. We must learn to be more physical and cut down the turnovers."
Kerigan Wessing led the offensive attack for Pilot Grove, 2-1 on the season, with 28 points along with six steals, four assists and three rebounds.
Melissa Schlotzhauer, meanwhile, finished the game with 20 points, nine rebounds, six assists and three steals. McKalie Lorenz also had 10 points, five rebounds, one assist, one steal and one blocked shot while McKenzi Schuster added five points, five rebounds, five steals and two assists, Katelyn Renfro with two points and one rebound and Cynthia Brumback with three rebounds, one assist and one steal.
For Prairie Home, freshman Makayla Zey finished the game with a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds along with one steal and one assist.
Katlynn Watson finished the game with 13 points, two rebounds, two assists and one steal while Kendra Stinson added seven points, five assists and one rebound, Brooke Emmerich with six points, four rebounds, four steals and four assists, Josie Flood with six points and seven rebounds, Ally Small with two points, two rebounds and one assist, Krista Small with one point, three assists and one rebound, Amber Carmichael with one assist and Kim Hettinger with one rebound.
As impressive as the Lady Tigers looked at times against Prairie Home, the Pilot Grove boys were just as impressive against the Panthers while putting up 30 points alone in the opening period.
But even then Prairie Home kept the game close while trailing by just 14 (44-30) at the half and 54-42 after three quarters of play.
Prairie Home senior Trever Huth also led the Panthers to within nine (58-49) with 6:01 left in the fourth after hitting a three. However it was just too much Pilot Grove on this night as the Tigers outscored Prairie Home 16-15 for the rest of the game to win by 10.
Pilot Grove coach Rick Grunden said going into the game he knew the Tigers would have to execute if they wanted to stay in the game with Prairie Home.
"After the first quarter our intensity went downhill and it was nearly to our detriment," Grunden said. "However, we were able to escape with a victory, thanks in part to Dylan Twenter, who played an excellent game around the rim and Mason Schlotzhauer, who worked well within the offense to find a way to score. We will have a quick turnaround of one day before we take on Tuscumbia on Thursday."
Mason Schlotzhauer led four players in double figures for Pilot Grove, 3-0 on the season, with 25 points. Dylan Twenter tossed in 21, Kendall Kraus 11, Jake Leverton 10, Colton Glenn five and Regan Meisenheimer with two.
Prairie Home coach Jesse Oswald said you can't spot a good team like Pilot Grove with a 15 point lead in the first quarter.
"They played very smart for the night and didn't force any shots and didn't allow us to really put up a comeback," Oswald said. "I thought that we shot the ball pretty good tonight and stepped up our defense as the night went along. We just didn't have it from the beginning of the game and dug ourselves to deep of a hole. We did show some signs that we are improving. Klay Holliday and Kody Utterback both stepped up their games tonight and really made a difference. Offensively we were able to get some shots to fall but defensively is definitely where we need to improve. A lot of credit goes to Pilot Grove and Coach Grunden. They executed very well and knock down a lot of open shots."
Trever Huth finished the game with a double-double for Prairie Home, who dropped to 1-2, with 27 points and 11 rebounds. Huth also had three steals and one assist.
Kody Utterback finished the game with 12 points and eight rebounds while Rayce Kendrick added 10 points, five assists, one rebound and one steal, Sam Distler with seven points and five rebounds, Klay Holliday with six points, seven assists and four rebounds and Jonathan Brandes with two points.