Rural Vista's boys couldn't hit the bullseye on Tuesday.
The Heat, ranked No. 5 in Class 1A Division I, were hoping to knock off Elyria Christian School, which was playing its first game after acquiring its shiny new No. 1 state ranking in Class 1A Division II on Monday.
But the Eagles outlasted the Heat 55-47 to remain undefeated.
The Eagles jumped out to a 14-9 first-quarter lead, but led only 22-19 at the half.
The third quarter turned the tide as ECS piled up 23 points to lead by 18.
“It’s a new position for us to be sitting at the top of the league, so playing with a target on our back has been a learning experience for the team,” ECS coach Zach Goodrich said. “Every night we have to be ready for opponents’ best effort and I am not sure we are understanding that completely. We did not play very well the first half, our effort was non-existent the first two quarters, not closing out on shooters, defending the post and rotations were a step or two slow. We had some shots fall for us the first half that allowed us to be in the game, but give credit to Rural Vista, they made us work offensively and defensively.”
Tyler Thiessen and Aidan Fields led the Eagles with 14 points apiece and Caleb Froese chipped in with 13.
It was a milestone night for Thiessen, as early in the game he surpassed the 1,000-point mark for his career, the second in school history.
• Rural Vista girls 42, Elyria Christian 27 — The Eagles couldn't get it going from the field, shooting just 23 percent.
The Eagles were in the game for a half, but the Heat outscored them 12-4 in the third quarter.
Bailey Unruh's 9 points led Elyria.
• Moundridge boys 52, Ell-Saline 46 — Ell-Saline kept hanging around and the Wildcats could never quite pull away.
MHS was up 29-25 at the half and after stretching it out to 41-32 after three quarters, Moundridge fended off a Cardinal rally.
“We never really found a groove tonight,” Wildcat coach Vance Unrau said. “Ell-Saline is very athletic and physical and we knew that they would pound the glass and they did. We allowed too many offensive rebounds, didn't get enough loose balls and gave up dribble penetration. We didn't make good in-game adjustments and didn't execute in the halfcourt game. Not saying we didn't play hard because I think we did. An ugly win, but we will take it.”
Noah Eichelberger scored 22 points, 13 in the second half. Dillon Vogts scored 10 of his 12 in the first half and Brady Helms continued to be a nice third option with 10. Vogts also yanked down 9 rebounds from his guard spot.
• Moundridge girls 55, Ell-Saline 23 — The Wildcat girls broke out of their scoring slump while maintaining their season-long defensive intensity.
The Wildcats held the Cardinals to just 10 first-half points while exploding for 32 themselves.
Moundridge had terrific balance, with Kaela Helms leading the way by scoring 12 points on 4 3-pointers. Bethany Stucky chipped in with 10. Six players scored at least 6 points for the Wildcats.
• Bennington boys 44, Inman 32 — The Bulldogs threw up the defensive dragnet in handing the Teutons the loss.
Inman managed only 13 points in the second half after leading 19-17 at halftime.
Payton Froese tallied 16 points and Mason Thiessen had 10 for the Teutons.
• Inman girls 26, Bennington 17 — It was also a struggle for the Inman girls, but they played airtight defense to earn the victory.
Both teams couldn’t get out of the gates as Inman led 2-0 after 8 minutes and it was still 6-4 at halftime.
Inman finally started some offensive movement in the third quarter by outscoring the Bulldogs 13-4.
MaKayla Michael and Kamryn Herren led the Teutons with 8 points apiece.
• Goessel boys 47, Canton-Galva 28 — Jonah Sargent returned after missing 3 weeks with an injury, but he couldn’t return the Eagles to the victory column.
Sargent had a team-high 11 points, but the other Eagles struggled.
C-G was down just 22-14 at the half, but the Bluebirds went on a 16-2 lick in the third period to break the game open.
Landon Everett pulled down 7 rebounds.
“We dug ourselves a hole right out of the gate,” C-G coach Shane Duncan said. “As a team, we didn't play inspired basketball whatsoever. We knew that Goessel had two players that combine for 70 percent of their points, but we let them get open looks that they didn't miss. Hopefully we can get back to full strength soon and improve on our weaknesses. It was nice to get Sargent back after missing the last couple of games.”
• Goessel girls 52, Canton-Galva 22 — Athletic Goessel sprinted to a 31-13 halftime lead and didn’t take its foot off the gas.
Tia Moddelmog led the way for the Eagles with 9 points. C-G had no quarter of more than 7 points as the Bluebirds' quickness keyed the win.
• Centre boys 66, Little River 63 — Regulation couldn’t decide the outcome as the Cougars outscored the Redskins 11-8 in overtime to win the high-powered offensive shootout.
Little River was in good shape in the first half with a 30-22 lead, but the Cougars roared out of the locker room to outscore the Redskins 20-6 in the third quarter.
Back came Little River as it scored 19 third-quarter points to get the game into overtime.
Jayden Garrison scored 20 points and Jace Garrison added 18. Levi Swenson also was in double figures with 10.
• Little River girls 48, Centre 31 — The Redskins jumped out to a 13-3 first-quarter lead and maintained the advantage the rest of the way.
“This was a good team win for us tonight. We came out from the beginning and executed like we need to do,” Little River coach Trey Looks said. “After starting slow our last two games we talked about how we needed to set the tone from the start and that happened for us tonight. Jaylie Bergkamp and Michelle Loder I thought played really well tonight. We had some girls get in foul trouble the second quarter and they kept us under control and poised. Give Centre credit as they made us work for everything we got. Proud of the girls, their effort and the way they played as a team.”
Emma McBride tallied 12 points to lead Little River. Nine Redskins in all scored as they had nice balance.
• Smoky Valley boys 65, Nickerson 60 — After struggling on Friday in their return from the holiday break, the Vikings warmed up to turn back the Panthers.
The Vikings, after trailing 25-23 at the half, ramped it up in the third quarter by erupting for 24 points.
Nick Reinert, after just 4 points on Friday, found his usual form with 22 points. Ben Weldy added 16 and Jacob Adams furnished 15.
• Nickerson girls 68, Smoky Valley 54 — The Vikings have picked up the offensive pace after scoring in the 30s earlier in the season.
Nickerson had back-to-back quarters of 25 and 20 points.
Smoky Valley’s best quarter was the second when it erupted for 23 points and also hit for 18 in the final quarter.
Jordan Otto led the Vikings with 16. Kira Haxton added 15 and Kerington Haxton had her best night of the year with 10.
• Kingman girls 52, Hesston 50 — Kingman continues to be a thorn in the side of the Swathers as it was a titanic struggle the entire game.
It was tied at 11-all after a quarter, Hesston was up 26-24 at the half and the Eagles took the lead 40-39 going into the fourth quarter.
Elise Kaiser and Kailey Jo Ince scored 17 and 16 points, respectively, for the Swathers. The Bangert sisters combined with 33 points, with Bailey leading the way with 20.
• Hesston boys 53, Kingman 44 — Reese Nebel's 24 points and 10 more by Cameron Cox led Hesston to the victory.
Nebel made 7 of 8 free throws in the fourth quarter to put the game away. He finished the game 10 of 12.
Hesston did its damage in the first half, up 33-25. The Swathers increased the lead in the third quarter before Kingman made a run in the final period for cosmetic purposes.