Nickerson’s Ben Berridge was excited when he heard coach Ryan Duft’s scouting report against Pratt’s 1-3-1 zone defense.
“Coach Duft said we would get some wide open 3s against their zone,” Berridge said.
Duft proved to be a prophet when supersub Berridge converted two of Nickerson’s seven 3-pointers to spark the Panthers past Pratt 62-53 in overtime in Friday’s Central Kansas League basketball game.
“Ben’s a player who brings energy off the bench for us,” Duft said. “He made some shots, but he was also good defensively tonight.”
Berridge knocked down his first two field goals and scored a career high 19 points, including 9 of 12 free throws. Joey Stockinger and Jake Stiverson each made a pair of 3-pointers and Ethan Belden added a 3-pointer off good bal movement.
“It always gives you confidence when you make your first couple of shots,” Berridge said. “It was nice to see everyone making the 3-pointer tonight.”
Belden scored 14 points and Stockinger added 11 points. The Panthers shot better than 50 percent on 3-pointers and made 18 of 42 field goals and 19 of 32 free throws to celebrate a happy Homecoming.
The Panthers outscored the Greenbacks 13-4 in overtime behind 9 of 14 free throws. Ethan Belden scored on a driving basket and passed to Nate Hiatt for a fast-break layup in overtime for a 57-51 lead.
“It was our most complete game and biggest win of the season,” Duft said. “It gives us confidence that we could win a grind-it-out type of game. We were able to finish strong tonight. The guys worked together to get us a victory tonight.”
The fast-paced fourth quarter started with back-to-back Stockinger assists on 3-pointers by Berridge and Stiverson for a 40-39 lead. The Panthers scored their final six points in the fourth quarter on free throws and were a defensive stop away from winning in regulation.
But Pratt’s athletic Skylar Dean scored eight points in the final 36 seconds and forced overtime with a driving bank shot in traffic for a 49-49 tie.
Dean scored 14 of his 31 points in the fourth period. He scored Pratt’s final 12 points of the ballgame.
It marked the first time Nickerson (4-11, 1-3 CKL) was able to win a tight ballgame.
“Pratt gave us some open shots in their zone and we stepped up and made perimeter shots,” Duft said.
Dean gave Nickerson matchup problems, but his teammates finished 6 of 18 from the field. Chase Hageman added 11 points.
“We were switching all screens and rotating on their ballhandler,” Duft said. “Defensively, we were really good, especially in the first half. We got their offense out of rhythm. Dean made tough shots and got in the paint and got fouled.”
Pratt (5-10, 2-2 CKL) won the first non-league meeting against Nickerson with a similar fourth-quarter comeback. Dean scored 14 points and Chase Hageman made four free throws in the final period. The Greenbacks kicked up their defensive pressure in the fourth quarter.
“We made a nice comeback and I was proud the way we rallied,” said Pratt coach David Swank.
But Nickerson outscored the Greenbacks 13-2 for a 62-51 lead behind hustling defense that yielded no field goals in overtime.
“I have to credit Nickerson defensively in overtime,” said Swank. “They took us out of our offense that first half. We had a hard time hitting shots at times. We’re really evenly matched and they were well prepared for us. They had some guys step up and hit some outside shots that we didn’t expect.”
Swank said the Greenbacks needed better offensive balance.
“We missed some shots that we normally make,” Swank said. “They did a good job defensively on our best shooter Garret Smith.”