Minutes after beating Drexel 68-55 in the sectional round of the state playoffs last night at Sedalia Smith-Cotton High School, Pilot Grove coach Derek Skaggs talked about his team peeking at the right time and moving on to the big house.
The big house that Skaggs is referring to is the Final Four at Mizzou Arena in Columbia. Of course the Tigers still have one step before fulfilling their goal, as they play Macks Creek in the quarterfinal round Saturday at Clinton High School starting at 2:45 p.m.
Like Pilot Grove, Macks Creek prevailed last night at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar 63-59 in overtime. The Pirates will go into the game at 23-5 while Pilot Grove improved to 24-5 with the win against Drexel.
Skaggs said it’s all about climaxing at the right time.
“We have five guys on the floor that are playing their tails off defensively,” Skaggs said. “They are rebounding hard and they are just playing hard. They have each others backs and we hope to get to the big house. That’s everyones dream.”
Although the Tigers wound up winning by 13, the first quarter was pretty much all Drexel and senior Javyn Johnson, who had 15 of the team’s 17 points, which included a shot at the buzzer off the glass way behind the three-point arc.
Sophomore Mason Schlotzhauer wasn’t bad either for the Tigers with nine of the team’s 12 points.
Skaggs said they knew that Johnson played above the rim. “His jump shot is real high,” Skaggs said. “He came out hot on us and we knew we were going to have to run and jump. We searched all through the bench and finally found Alex Twenter. The kids hasn’t logged a lot of minutes for us this year and I have been complimenting him on his defense and his heart. He came in and just didn’t defend him and Ben Colton both, they locked him up. We also knew we were going to get Mason some fresher legs. He was starting to get kind of winded so we had to find someone out there that could freshen his legs up and Alex and Ben did that.”
While holding Johnson to four points in the second quarter, the Tigers also began to find the basket with a little more regularity while reeling off 12 straight during a two-minute stretch to go up 28-21 with 3:24 left.
Pilot Grove’s biggest lead of the half also came at the 2:16 mark on a putback by senior Trenton Young to make it 33-24.
However over the last-two minutes of the period, Drexel responded with a three by sophomore Trevor Gunnels and two free throws by junior Jacob Antley to cut the lead to four at 33-29.
Skaggs said the kids just came out tight to start the game. “You could see it,” Skaggs said. “It’s a sectional game. The kids that don’t normally make mistakes were turning the ball over tonight. They just came out a little nervous. Finally, we found some guys to settle in and ways to get the ball in position to score.”
While Johnson sat most of the second quarter in foul trouble, Schlotzhauer went ballistic again with 11 of the team’s 21 points to finish the half with 20.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, they had another dry spell in the third quarter as Drexel turned a four-point deficit at the half into a seven-point lead (45-38) after a three-point play by Antley with 3:14 left.
Costly turnovers also played a big part in the third quarter as Pilot Grove committed six miscues. However from the 2:04 mark on in the third quarter, the Tigers came back and reeled off 11 straight points to go ahead by four at 49-45.
Schlotzhauer and Colton Glenn combined for eight of the team’s 11 points during that stretch while junior Jake Leverton knocked down a three.
Skaggs said turnovers and not being locked in defensively played a part in Drexel’s run in the third.
“At this point in the season you have to have that look in your eyes like you are just going to get the job done but I didn’t see that look and then finally at the end of the third quarter we had some guys stepping up and getting stops and we realized that Johnson was slowing down a little bit,” Skaggs said. Getting Colton on board was also big. He wasn’t locked in the first half and then he started playing with emotion. He is our leader and he is the guy that has to give us that emotion to live off of. When this team has emotion going, they are solid.”
The Tigers played with plenty of emotion in the fourth quarter.
After a basket by Johnson to cut the lead to three at 50-47 with 7:03 left, Pilot Grove came back with a three-point play by Young and a two from Glenn to extend the lead back to seven at 54-47.
Young and Glenn also combined for 15 of the team’s 19 points in the final period to lead the Tigers, who finally hit the double digit mark at 65-55 with 1:54 left.
While outscoring the Bobcats 19-10 in the fourth quarter, Skaggs said he just kept emphasizing to attack the rim.
“I knew we could have success offensively by attacking the rim,” Skaggs said. “Colton finally saw that and then finally Mason was able to do a little bit. We knew Johnson was going to have to play a little soft so we tried to attack him with Mason. Mason got some buckets down low and was able to attack the rim at him. At this point in the season you have to go right at the rim. It’s hard-nosed basketball.”
Schlotzhauer was definitely hard-nosed while finishing the game with a team-high 28 points.
Schlotzhauer said he wanted this game real bad since Drexel won it last year. “We just kept on fighting back and forth,” Schlotzhauer said. “Javyn is a good player and it was a tough matchup, but we just hung with it.”
Schlotzhauer said the crowd also got the team pumped up in the third quarter when the Tigers went on a 11-0 run.
“It got our crowd pumped up and got us pumped up and it got us on a run, too, “Schlotzhauer said.
Trenton Young finished the game with 15 points while Colton Glenn added 14, Reagan Meisenheimer five and Alex Twenter and Jake Leverton each with three.
The Tigers also hit on 6 of 15 shots from the line for 40 percent.
As for Drexel, Johnson scored 31 of the team’s 55 points.