Upset with the way he had played through three quarters Saturday night against rival Butler, and with his team’s 18-point lead trimmed to 10, Pleasure Ridge Park senior Richard Gaines took over in the final frame.
The 6-foot-5 senior forward scored 11 of his team-high 17 points in the fourth period to lead the Panthers to a 58-41 win over the Bears in a Sixth Region showdown at Valley.
“They (the coaches) said I should get the ball more, and I agreed,” said Gaines, who also snared a game-best 17 rebounds. “I just got to the hole when I could.”
Gaines hit three field goals, five free throws and also dished out an assist over the final eight minutes as No. 10 PRP (12-3) pulled away for its seventh victory in its last eight games against Butler.
“He’s got capabilities, he has all season, of taking over games,” PRP coach Dale Mabrey said of Gaines, who entered averaging 21.8 points per game. “He was mad at himself because he was playing a little out of control, and he was missing free throws he usually makes, he got a little frustrated because he wanted to win so much. But he came out in the fourth quarter and lit a fire under himself and under us.”
Senior center Drew Glass added 12 points and 12 rebounds while senior point guard Khalid Raheem, who was in foul trouble much of the second half, tallied 11 for the Panthers, who led by double digits for the final 22 minutes, 25 seconds of the game.
Senior guard Drue Wardrip came off the bench to score a game-high 18 points for Butler (4-11), which not only lost five of seven games over the holiday break but also six players, coach Rick Gibson said.
PRP, the two-time reigning Sixth Region champs, jumped out to a 12-2 lead as all five starters hit at least one basket. Meanwhile the Bears, who started a freshman, two sophomores, one junior and a senior, missed five of their first six shots and also had seven turnovers in the first quarter.
“That’s been our Achilles’ heel here lately,” Gibson said. “The last five or six games we’ve dug ourselves a hole and couldn’t get out of it.
“That’s what I was worried about, our young kids getting that wide-eyed look, and we saw it quite a bit.”
Bryce Walker’s 3-pointer put PRP up 20-9 1:35 into the second quarter to give the Panthers a double-digit lead they wouldn’t lose for the rest of the game.
PRP’s biggest lead (35-17) came on Greg Davidson’s steal and layup early in the third period.
The Bears, though, slowly chipped away at the Panthers’ lead, trimming it to 10 at the end of the third.
The fourth quarter, however, was all Gaines. He fed Glass inside for the first points in the period, then scored 11 of his team’s next 13.
“He’s so much more athletic than anybody we have, it’s so hard to duplicate that in practice,” Gibson said.
Sophomore guard Austin Wise added 10 for Butler, which shot 23.3 percent (10 for 43) from the field — including 2 of 14 (14.3 percent) from 3-point range — and was 19 for 32 (59.4 percent) from the free throw line.
“We chipped it away. We were getting stops, we just weren’t able to score,” Gibson said.
Girls’ game: Tenth-ranked Butler built a 41-16 halftime lead and cruised to a 69-32 victory in the girls’ game.
Sophomore guard Jaelynn Penn tallied 15 points to lead the Bearettes (11-2).
Senior guard Leslie Fries scored 16 points to pace the Panthers (7-8), which was plagued by 29 turnovers.
PRP (12-3) – Gaines 17, Davidson 8, Glass 12, Raheem 11, Cranford 3, Stevenson 4, Walker 3.
Butler (4-11) – Luckett 4, Wise 10, Bradley 5, Wardrip 18, Hambry 2, Brown 2.
3-point goals – Wardrip 2, Raheem 1, Stevenson 1, Walker 1.
PRP (7-8) – Petit-Frere 3, Fries 16, Saunders 5, Mitchell 2, Pugh 1, Marcum 3, Foster 2.
Butler (11-2) – Penn 15, Jeffries 9, A. Just 7, Winebrenner 6, Bowden 6, Lewis 6, Goodlett 5, Lockhart 4, Harris 4, B. Just 3, Torrens 2, Casey 2.
3-point goals – Jeffries 3, Fries 2, Winebrenner 2, B. Just 1, A. Just 1, Penn 1, Petit-Frere 1.