JEFFERSON – Trailing by five points with less than six minutes to go, Clinton Prairie went on a 17-3 run to close out a hard-fought 69-60 boys basketball victory over Faith Christian Friday night.
The Class A eighth-ranked Gophers (12-1) earned their 12th straight victory, but Faith Christian (7-6) continuously hung around behind the play of Cam Berning, Nick Borga and Austin Norton.
But the Gophers took control down the stretch after the Eagles opened the final period with a 10-2 run to take a 57-52 lead after a Borga 3-pointer.
After a timeout, the Gophers went to their seniors. Kale Morris knocked down a 15-foot jumper and Jacob Price drilled a 3-pointer from the left corner to tie the game and seize the momentum from Faith.
But it was Clinton Prairie’s defense that made the biggest difference, holding Faith Christian scoreless over a critical five-minute stretch of the quarter, allowing the Gophers to build a multiple-possession lead.
Price hit two free throws to give Clinton Prairie the lead again at 59-57. Drew Scott followed with a driving layup and Morris connected on reverse layup give the Gophers a much-needed cushion with less than two minutes to play.
Jared Stillwell scored 17 of his game-high 25 points in the first half, including all five of his 3-point shots. Scott added 18 points and Morris 14. Berning topped Faith Christian scorers with 22 points while Norton added 12.
Despite the impressive comeback, Clinton Prairie coach Jeff Henley said he was not pleased with his team’s play.
“The first 27 minutes of the game, we didn’t deserve to win the game,” Henley said. “Faith deserved to win. They played much better and much harder. I’ll give our kids credit for the last five minutes. They dug down deep and went from five down and nine up, but there’s not a lot to be happy about here.”
Clinton Prairie just could not shake Faith Christian, building leads of six points in the first quarter (13-7) and seven points in the second (37-30) behind Stillwell’s hot shooting, only to see Faith fight its way back time and time again.
“Stillwell just killed us from the outside, but we didn’t let it bury us,” Faith Christian coach Clayton Callan said. “I thought outside of that, we were where we needed to be defensively. We had a couple of breakdowns but as good as that team is and as many options that they have, I was glad we defended them as well as we did.”
Henley said he did not believe his team played with the inspiration it will need if it plans to continue its winning streak.
“If Jared’s not hitting for us, this game might be over at halftime,” Henley said, pointing out that the Gophers only held a 37-33 halftime lead despite shooting nearly 50 percent from the floor (14 of 29).
“Jared hit those shots to keep us up but (Faith Christian) outplayed us. They out-thought us and outworked us. I think we have some kids who think we’re better than what we are right now. They need to readjust their thinking or we’re going to get some losses very quickly.”
Clinton Prairie led by as many as eight points in the third quarter (50-42) before Andrew Rounds knocked down a short jumper and Luke Peters added a 3-pointer to slash the deficit to 50-47 going into the fourth quarter.