Slow start dooms Eagles

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 12, 2011

FLOWOOD — When they walked off the floor Friday night, the Porters Chapel Eagles could take some solace in knowing they came back from a wretched start to go toe-to-toe with one of the best teams in the MAIS Class A ranks.

It’s a small consolation, though, and one they’ll take into the game of the same name.

Wayne Academy used a fast start to build a slim lead it never relinquished, and held off PCA down the stretch to win 42-36 in the semifinals of the MAIS Class A South Central tournament.

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Wayne (20-5), the District 8-A champion, advanced to face tournament host University Christian in tonight’s championship game. PCA plays the loser of the other semifinal, Heidelberg Academy, in the third-place game at 6 p.m. No matter the outcome, PCA (14-8) will play in the Class A state tournament next week at Benton Academy.

“Fourth isn’t an option,” PCA coach E.J. Creel said. “It’s going to be really hard, if we lose, to match up with a No. 1. Either they’ve gotten hot and they’re used to having momentum, or they’re good enough to be there. It can be done, but it’s hard.”

The Eagles played Wayne to a standstill for 26 minutes Friday night, but it was the first six that did them in. PCA missed five shots and turned the ball over four times in its first nine possessions, allowing Wayne to creep out to a 7-0 lead.

That seven-point deficit remained a stubborn hurdle for the Eagles. They never trailed by more than 10 points, yet never got closer than three. Their last charge brought them as close as 33-30 with just under five minutes to play. Wayne’s Tim Coaker hit a free throw a couple minutes later, and Toby Roach hit a key layup with 1:11 left to ensure it never became a one-possession game again.

Coaker finished with 21 points to lead Wayne, while Roach had eight points and eight rebounds. Drew Morris had 10 points, nine rebounds and four blocks.

Minor mistakes came back to haunt the Eagles, too. Peter Harris drilled a 3-pointer at the second-quarter buzzer, only to have it waved off by a traveling call. It would have made it a four-point game at the break, and the miscue grew larger when Kawayne Gaston dropped in a 3-pointer early in the fourth that cut Wayne’s lead to 23-19.

The Eagles also turned the ball over with four seconds left in the third quarter, finished with 20 turnovers and shot 25.6 percent (10-for-39) for the game.

Kawayne Gaston, who led PCA with 22 points and eight rebounds, said the lackluster first quarter was the biggest difference, though.

“You can’t turn it on in the second half. You’ve got to have it all four quarters, and we couldn’t do that,” Gaston said.