1A II Boys: Elyria Christian gets streaky in 55-42 win over Pawnee Heights
Eagles head back to state title for first time since 2018.
GREAT BEND —There are probably some Elyria Christian fans who wanted a rematch with Northern Valley for a shot in the state title game. However, when you're trying to win a state championship, you don't care who you have to play.
"We talked about that before the game," Elyria Christian coach Zach Goodrich said. "We've played a really tough schedule all season. So, we aren't afraid of another challenge."
For the Elyria Christian Eagles (16-9), the really tough schedule has paid off. They have gone through the gauntlet, with their record not being quite indicative of how good they truly are.
"With me being the athletic director, people give me a hard time by scheduling the tough teams," Goodrich said. "I think it's set us up to be where we are today."
All of that hard work has paid off. They'll get their shot at one of the more legacy-ladened teams in 1A in the Hanover Wildcats.
Elyria Christian punched their ticket into the final game of the season with the 55-42 win over Pawnee Heights inside Barton Gymnasium on the campus of Barton Community College on Friday night.
Bret Anderson had 18 points on 9-of-12 shooting to lead Elyria Christian. Zach Stucky had 16, including nine in the fourth quarter.
Stucky, who played on the 2018 team that lost to Northern Valley in the title game, came through big time for the Eagles when they needed someone. After Pawnee Heights pushed back and took a 31-30 lead with 1:48 remaining in the third quarter, it was Stucky who put the game away. The senior who is often known for being passive and afraid of turnovers slipped into another gear, attacking the rim and putting the team on his back.
"We share the same name," Goodrich said. "He's finally playing like the way I want to play."
When Goodrich and Stucky first were around one another, Goodrich talked about how Stucky didn't want to make the mistakes and the coach had to remind him sometimes turnovers are showing you're trying to make plays.
"He's starting to do the things he's capable of," Goodrich said. "He's putting the team on his shoulders."
Elyria Christian led 23-22 at the break and came out, pushing it to an eight-point advantage with a couple of buckets by Anderson, forcing a timeout by Pawnee Valley. The Tigers responded with a run of their own to take the lead, holding Elyria Christian scoreless for the next 4:38.
After that, it was Stucky time. And the senior stepped up.
The Tigers (14-10), who were in their first state semifinal as Pawnee Heights, showed aggressiveness early on by taking a six-point lead, but it was senior Bret Anderson who got the Eagles going.
Anderson found his moment by getting the ball underneath the goal and pump faking, sending the Pawnee Heights defenders flying through the air. He would put it in for an easy basket. He scored six straight to give Elyria Christian the lead back in an 8-0 run with 3:34 remaining in the half.
"We've been trying to get him to slow down all season and be patient," Goodrich said. "It finally is starting to show in the last two games."
Pawnee Heights didn't do themselves any favor on the night. Despite shooting 1 of 6 at the free-throw line. They also turned the ball over 16 times on the night.
Adam Hands led the Tigers with 15 points. Junior Braden Colglazier had 11 points and 11 rebounds for Pawnee Heights.
For an Elyria Christian team that hasn't been around a long time, the players are setting a pretty solid legacy for this senior class. Two state title appearances is nothing to sneeze at.
"We've felt this year it was our time just to take over and get it done," Anderson said. "We want this season to be similar to that freshman year in how it was so special."
The chance to cap off a special season will be at 6 p.m. Saturday.
ELYRIA BOYS 55, PAWNEE HEIGHTS 42
PAWNEE HEIGHTS (14-10) — Hands 6-12 0-0 15, Carlson 6-13 0-2 13, Colglazier 5-7 1-3 11, Hamby 1-4 0-0 3. TOTALS: 18-38 1-5 42.
ELYRIA CHRISTIAN (16-9) — Anderson 9-12 0-1 18, Stucky 5-9 5-7 16, Hobson 3-11 4-6 10, Wiggers 3-5 0-0 6, Unruh 1-4 0-0 3, Aroum 0-4 2-4 2. TOTALS: 21 45 11-18 55.
3-point goals — PH 5-15 (Hands 3-6, Carlson 1-5, Hamby 1-3, Colglazier 0-1). EC 2-10 (Stucky 1-2, Unruh 1-1, Aroum 0-3, Hobson 0-4). Fouled out — PH: Carlson, EC: None. Rebounds — PH 24 (Colglazier 11), EC 28 (Wiggers 9). Turnovers — PH 16, EC 7. Total fouls — PH 15, EC 10.