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Men’s College Basketball: Late Prairie State surge derails Moraine Valley

Moraine Valley's Paul Otruskevicius makes nifty pass Saturday. | Dennis Nelson/For Sun-Times Media

Moraine Valley's Paul Otruskevicius makes a nifty pass Saturday. | Dennis Nelson/For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 17, 2014 11:53AM



Prairie State outscored Moraine Valley 10-1 to end the game and earn a 75-70 Skyway Conference win in a battle of neighboring community colleges Saturday in Palos Hills.

Trailing 69-65, the Pioneers did not allow a basket over the final 2:15 to improve their marks to 11-17 overall and 6-5 in the Skyway Conference. Moraine had its bid for its first three-game win streak of the season dashed in falling to 7-20, 3-9.

“In the beginning of the year, we wouldn’t have done that,” Prairie State coach Mike Manderino said of the Pioneers’ comeback from an 11-point first-half deficit. “I think we have a little more confidence and a little less quit in us. The guys kept playing and won a big game on the road against a very good team.”

Prairie State made 24-of-29 shots from the free-throw line.

“We had some missed layups, missed assignments on defense, and just fell short,” Moraine coach David Howard said. “This one stings because we had the lead nearly the entire game.”

Rodney Smith’s 25 points and key plays down the stretch led the Pioneers, who have won eight of their last 11 games after going 3-14 in their first 17 games. Adrian Jeffries chipped in 22 points and eight rebounds, while Joe Hughes added 10 points.

Moraine featured four players in double figures, led by Kyle Ward’s 18 points. He also led the team with nine rebounds.

“There were multiple possessions during the game we did something wrong,” Howard said. “One possession can be the difference between a win or a loss. One less turnover or missed assignment and we win the ballgame.”

After five ties and five lead changes, Moraine went on an 11-0 run to establish command late in the first half. Paul Otruskevicius had five points during the spurt and Ward four, including a bucket that gave the hosts a 33-22 lead with 2:48 left in the first half. Moraine settled for a 35-28 advantage at the break.

Trailing 45-36, Prairie State ripped off seven straight points. Jeffries sank two free throws with 14:44 left in the second half to cut the Cyclones’ lead to 45-43.

Smith’s two free throws with 5:15 left trimmed the lead to 62-61.

Cameron Jullierat’s three-pointer with 2:15 to play gave the Cyclones a 69-65 lead, but it was their last field goal of the game.

Jeffries’ layup on a Corey Rucker assist gave the visitors a 71-70 lead with 55 seconds remaining. Ward’s driving layup attempt went in and out, and Smith sank four straight free throws over the final 10 seconds to end the game.

Smith was a perfect 10-for-10 from the stripe and Jeffries was 8-for-10.

“You have to make a run to get back into the game, then you have to make some stops,” Manderino said. “We were very poor defensively for most of the game. Toward the end of the game, we came up with some big stops.”

The rematch is Tuesday in Chicago Heights.



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