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story.lead_photo.caption MARK HUMPHREY ENTERPRISE-LEADER Prairie Grove senior Riley Rhodes, shown fending off a half-court trap during nonconference play, scored six points for the Tigers against Pea Ridge.

PEA RIDGE -- While Pea Ridge's boys struggled with their offensive production for most of a Friday, Dec. 21 game, their defensive play came to the rescue.

The Blackhawks limited Prairie Grove to just eight field goals and went on to claim a 48-25 victory over the Tigers during 4A-1 Conference action in Blackhawk Gymnasium.

"I was really pleased with how we defended the whole game," Pea Ridge coach Trent Loyd said. "We guarded, and I'm very impressed with that. Defense can win you a lot of games."

"Offensively, we had some good looks, but they just didn't fall in the first half. We just told them at halftime to keep firing because they will eventually fall and to keep doing what they're doing defensively. We finally took off in the third quarter and made some nice plays."

Pea Ridge (12-3, 3-1) hit only eight field goals in the first half and built a 19-12 lead, thanks to Noah Peterson's putback before the buzzer sounded. The Blackhawks' early shooting struggles allowed Prairie Grove (2-8, 0-3) to not only stay within reach but have opportunities to tie or take the lead.

The Tigers, however, couldn't take advantage after they pulled within 11-9 on James Millwood's free throw with 7 minutes, 10 seconds left in the first half. Prairie Grove then had the ball and only trailed 14-12 after a Riley Rhodes' 3-pointer, only to fail to convert once again.

"That has been our Achilles heel this season," Tigers coach Steve Edmiston said. "Defensively, we've been real solid. Pea Ridge didn't shoot that well, but we didn't take advantage of it."

"We had ample opportunities to make plays and get points on the board early. We simply didn't execute. When you're on the road in our conference, you just can't do that."

After a Millwood bucket pulled Prairie Grove within 20-14 early in the third quarter, Pea Ridge found a needed offensive spark and went on an 18-3 run for a 38-17 lead. Landon Allison hit a pair of 3-pointers, and Peterson added another one to cap the outburst.

Nick Coble led Pea Ridge with 10 points and was the only player in double figures as Allison and Wes Wales added nine apiece. Rhodes had six points to lead Prairie Grove.

PEA RIDGE 48, PRAIRIE GROVE 25

Prairie Grove^6^6^5^8^--^25

Pea Ridge^11^8^19^10^--^48

Prairie Grove (2-8, 0-3): Rhodes 6, Pohlman 5, Webb 5, Millwood 4, Edmiston 3, Vertz 2.

Pea Ridge (12-3, 3-1): Coble 10, Allison 9, Wales 9, Peterson 8, Rhine 5, Feemster 4, Wilkerson 3.

League Splits Divisions

The 4A-1 Conference has a few new looks this season, including a split into two divisions.

The league now has nine teams instead of the normal eight, which led to a decision by the schools' athletic directors to split them into two divisions. The West Division consists of Farmington, Gentry, Gravette, Pea Ridge and Prairie Grove, while Berryville, Harrison, Huntsville and Shiloh Christian form the East Division.

Instead of the usual double round-robin format, each team plays the teams in their division twice and plays one game against each of the teams in the other division. All conference games will still count in the standings.

"With nine teams, that means there would have been 16 conference games under the regular format," Pea Ridge athletic director Kevin Ramey said. "The Arkansas Activities Association only allows 20 regular-season games with two tournaments or 18 games with three tournaments.

"By going to the two divisions, it reduces the number of conference games and gives coaches a little flexibility as far as scheduling goes. It also makes it a little better for coaches to develop their teams before conference play starts."

Ramey pointed out that, under the normal format, the 4A-1 might have had to start scheduling conference games in November. That would have made things difficult on teams who rely on players who also play football, and those teams make deep runs into the playoffs, such as Shiloh Christian or Harrison.

"It's certainly different," Gravette boys coach Matt Busch said. "We still had to schedule second games against Shiloh Christian and Huntsville to fill our schedule. It's a bit confusing at times because we still have fans wondering if games against certain schools are still conference games or not."

Coweta, Okla. 39, Prairie Grove 36

During Christmas break Prairie Grove competed at the Siloam Springs Holiday Classic tournament and lost 39-36 to Coweta, Okla. on Dec. 27. Andrew Keatley scored 14 points for Coweta. Nick Pohlman scored 21 points for Prairie Grove.

COWETA, OKLA. 39, PRAIRIE GROVE 36

Coweta, Okla.^13^13^10^3^--^39

Prairie Grove^13^10^6^7^--^36

Sports on 01/09/2019

Print Headline: Defense Lifts Pea Ridge Past Prairie Grove

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