Teamwork made the difference for the 1A Prairie City Panther boys as, together, they defeated the Echo Cougars 67-32 Tuesday, Feb. 21, in Round One of the state playoffs.
After the win, local fans chanted loudly “Ring that bell! Ring that bell!”
It was the first time in three years that a Prairie City basketball team won a state playoff game at home, and when that happens the team gathers to ring a large vintage school bell.
“It felt awesome to ring the bell,” said senior Wyatt Williams.
Prairie City now advances to Round Two in the playoffs, traveling to Klamath Falls to face the Hosanna Christian Lions at 7:15 p.m. Friday.
The first few seconds of the contest were a good indicator of how the game would evolve, as Panther Levi Burke got the tip and his teammates Dorran Wilson and Brogan McKrola earned the first points of the game, scoring beyond the arc for three points each.
The first quarter ended with Prairie City leading 20-10.
Prairie City outshot Echo 14-9 in the second. In the quarter Wilson converted two steals to points on the board, and Burke also had a fast break for two points off a steal.
The Panthers maintained control of the game throughout and had a blowout final quarter, holding the Cougars to five points while scoring 19 of their own.
Wilson went 4-4 at the free-throw line and also scored two, McKrola had four points in the quarter and Devin Packard had two.
Freshman Jacob McClung pulled down two rebounds, and Williams scored a three-pointer and Jonathan Lawrence scored two in the closing seconds.
All 12 Panther players had court time, with seven scoring.
“It felt good playing as a team to get the win,” Wilson said.
“I thought all the guys performed at their peak tonight, and I’m really excited about our next games,” Williams said.
McKrola said the team came out strong.
“We played with a lot of intensity, and selflessly,” he said. “We played as a team, and that’s why we won.”
When asked how he felt about the outcome of the game, Panther head coach Jonathan Gill called it “indescribable.”
“I know it’s been a long time for this program and for this community to host a state-level playoff game,” he said. “And the proudest moment as a coach was seeing those boys come together at the end.”
Echo presented a challenge with good guard play and was a powerful opponent, he said, noting the Cougars finished third at their district tournament after being in fourth place in the regular season.
Looking ahead, Gill said “The goal is to get to Baker, and so we’ve got one more game to see if we can get there, and we’re going to just play our hearts out. The boys came together the best I’ve seen them all year. They’re playing as a team, they’re having fun, and they’re still hungry.”
Prairie City will face the same team the Monument/Dayville Tigers faced in Round One last year in Dayville, a game the Tigers lost by three points in overtime.
Hosanna Christian finished the regular season this year with a 14-1 record in the Mountain Valley League, 24-3 overall with an OSAA ranking of 3.
Prairie City had a 12-3 High Desert League record, 16-7 overall with an OSAA ranking of 18.
Over the regular season, the Lions scored a total of 1,582, while allowing 1,001 points from their opponents.
The Panthers have scored 1,411, while allowing 1,151 from their opponents.
Prairie City stats:
Dorran Wilson: 22 points (one three-pointer, 5-6 free throws)
Levi Burke: 16
Brogan McKrola: 15
Devin Packard: 5
Danner Davis: 4
Wyatt Williams: 3 (one three-pointer)
Jonathan Lawrence: 2