Prairie View 38, River Oaks 33

Prairie View started slow and didn't finish particularly well. In between, the Spartans did more than enough on their way to a 52-44 conquest of River Oaks.

Besides moving into sole possession of first-place in the MAIS District 5-2A standings, Prairie View won at the gate. It wasn't quite a packed house, but there were few empty seats Friday night in Spartan Gym.

"It was a good crowd and a good atmosphere, which is the way it was supposed to be," Prairie View coach David Patrick said. "Both teams were 2-0 (in district) coming in, and it was Prairie View vs. River Oaks. It's a rivalry game, and we get after each other pretty good."

Garrett Garlington hit two of his five 3-pointers as the visitors took a 10-3 first quarter lead.

"Starting off, we did not defend the 3-point line," Patrick said. "We talked about that before the game. In the Glenbrook game, they had a kid hit three or four 3s in the first half. You can't let people go off on 3-pointers."

Turning the table, the Spartans outscored the Mustangs 20-5 in the second period.

With the score tied at 15, Prairie View scored the final eight points of the half.

Hayes Crockett made three-of-six free throws and Alex Louizou cleaned the offensive glass and drained a 3-pointer in the waning seconds to give the Spartans a 23-15 halftime advantage.

Louizou provided a spark off the bench with a season-high 14 points.

"When Tanner (Caldwell) got in foul trouble, Alex came in and hit some shots during our run," Patrick said. "I was proud to see him do that."

Closing out a 13-0 spurt, the Spartans went ahead 28-15 early in the third quarter on Crockett's three-point play and Layton Rainbolt's layup.

Trailing 30-17, the Mustangs battled back with an 8-0 run. Three-pointers by Cam Cork and Chandler Smith and a Cork layup sliced the deficit to 32-25.

Regrouping, the Spartans answered with nine straight points.

Fouled on the drive, Crockett made the front end of a shooting foul to start a five-point possession. Prairie View retained possession after Crockett missed the second free, with Louizou driving the lane for the bucket and the foul. Crashing the boards on the missed & one, Crockett tapped the putback through the hoop.

Layton Woodard's two free throws closed out the fourth quarter scoring with Prairie View on top 39-25.

Crockett started the fourth quarter scoring with a short turn-around, increasing the spread to 41-25.

Prairie View's lead swelled to 48-30 near the four-minute mark as Caldwell's behind-the-back pass set up Woodard's transition layup.

Though the outcome was never in doubt, River Oaks outscored the Spartans 14-4 the rest of the way to make the final respectable.

"To make a serious run, you have to be able to close people out," Patrick said. "All year, we have not done that."

While it was hard for Patrick to be entirely disappointed, he remains concerned about the Spartans' offensive shortcomings.

"We played hard, we scrapped hard and we rebounded well offensively and defensively," Patrick said. "I know it's late in the game to be saying this, but offensively, we still haven't found our flow. We have had so many guys out (due to illness) and so many breaks in action. If we can ever find our offensive consistency and get our shooting percentage up, I think we will be able to compete at a pretty good level. But we're running out of time. We're getting into the last three or four weeks of the season. Our field goal percentage was extremely low tonight for a team that doesn't take many 3s."

Prairie View's free throw percentage was also low as the Spartans made just 13-of-38 (34.2 percent). River Oaks was only slightly better, converting 8-of-16.

On the other hand, Patrick had no complaints on the defensive side.

"We guarded better tonight," Patrick said. "We have played hard all season. It's just been a struggle for us to execute in the half court."

Woodard scored 10 of his 15 points in the second half to lead a trio of Spartans in double figures. Louizou and Crockett turned in 14 apiece, Rainbolt finished with five and Alex Dupree chipped in four.

Garlington (21) and Cork (14) accounted for all but nine of the Mustangs' points. Smith was next with seven and Ethan Parker added two.

Prairie View (8-7, 3-0) travels to Glenbrook Tuesday and is at home vs. Franklin Academy on Friday.

"Two of our last three are on the road," Patrick said. "It's going to be extremely difficult going to Glenbrook and River Oaks."

Notes: Things got chippy early in the fourth quarter. Taking exception to a foul while driving the lane, Rainbolt was ejected after being called for two technical fouls with 5:16 remaining. ... When the Spartans took a timeout shortly afterward, the Prairie View student section began chanting, "We want Rainbolt, we want Rainbolt..." ... Woodard (7-of-10) and Louizou (5-of-7) were bright spots at the free throw line, while the remainder of the team was 8-for-21.