Pine Creek boys’ basketball finds fourth quarter rhythm to beat Liberty

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COLORADO SPRINGS — Winning a game — any game — in the Pikes Peak Athletic Conference requires a team to play basketball for all four quarters. Neither Pine Creek nor Liberty Boys Basketball could do it, so their league tilt on Tuesday simply came down to who would win the fourth quarter.

And it was the Eagles who stepped in in a big way. They found some offense and held the Lancers without a basket for the entire eight minutes to secure a 54-40 win, just their second league victory of the season.

“The only thing we told the guys is that records don’t matter for this game,” Pine Creek coach Joe Rausch said. “Nothing was going to be easy. We had to hang on and eventually we started to click and we found five guys on the pitch who were going after it defensively.

They just waited as late as possible to find this group. The Lancers (4-7 overall, 2-1 PPAC) pushed the ball to the ground and found open shots early. Their first two baskets of the game came on 3-pointers from Will Grantz and Isaha Ballard, but they put the Eagles (6-5, 2-2) on a 7-3 run to tie the game after the first quarter.

Liberty took a two-point halftime lead thanks again to a few clutch shots. Landen Dvorsky knocked down two big baskets, scoring five of his team-high 11 points in the quarter, to help capture that momentum. But he was most proud of what the Lancers were doing at the other end of the room.

“I think we played a great defense,” he said. “Our defense was actually very good, especially in the first half.”

They pushed the lead to 31-28 after the third quarter, but that’s when things changed dramatically. Joseph Apuron knocked down a 3-pointer to immediately tie the game, then the Eagles went into attack mode. They forced their way to the basket more than they did at any time in the first three quarters and were rewarded with free throw attempts.

“We are a more physical team,” said Alex Esterle. “We just tried to play our game the first three quarters, then in the fourth we played a lot more physically and got a lot more aggressive.”

Esterle benefited from this aggressiveness. He fired 17 free throws in the fourth quarter alone, sinking 10 of them. He finished with a game-high 17 points, including 16 in the fourth quarter. He sank enough to take the win, but the team received 53.8% from the charity, a figure they won’t be happy with anytime soon.

“I wasn’t keeping track going up,” Esterle said.

The Eagles finally got the win. Rausch is waiting for his team to find a level of consistency they will need to struggle in the PPAC, but the only good takeaway from Tuesday’s victory is that his team struggled for three quarters but succeeded in the fourth to secure a Victoire.

“Liberty is always going to bring it when they play us, and that’s part of the game,” Rausch said. “Could we have played better offensively and defensively in those first three quarters? Yeah, we could have. But that’s partly what Liberty did. They were really tough and they didn’t make it easy for us.

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