WHEATLAND — Patrick Mulholland maneuvered past two defenders in the back court and heaved a pass to Kaidion Larson, who stood alone behind Calamus-Wheatland’s press.
Larson converted for an easy two points, as the connection between the pair of seniors served as the final blow in an intense bout between Tri-Rivers Conference heavyweights.
Prince of Peace struck early and held on late to down No. 6 Calamus-Wheatland 74-64 Friday night.
“I can’t remember the last time we won here. It is hard to win here, the crowd is into it and they play well,” Irish coach Gerry Murphy said. “This is a great win for us... I am really proud of them.”
Prince of Peace opened the contest on a 7-2 run and led comfortably through most of the third period. But the Warriors refused to fold, forcing the Irish to sink critical free throws down the stretch.
Prince of Peace converted on 23 of a whopping 36 attempts at the charity stripe in the second half — many of which were under the stress of a noisy home crowd.
After falling in a 13-point hole midway through the third, the Warriors fought back to cut the deficit to four points with four minutes remaining in regulation.
“They left it on the line, they left it on the floor... it was a good high school basketball game,” Murphy said.
Mulholland paired with Michael Matthew to spearhead Prince of Peace’s impressive start. Mulholland had five points in the first quarter — including a deep 3-pointer — and Matthew had six.
Mulholland finished with a game-high 28 points.
After a slow first half, Larson exploded in the second half. The flashy senior finished with 21 points after scoring just three points before halftime.
The win extended the Irish’s winning streak to eight games and will likely turn the tides in the next Associated Press polls. Prince of Peace received 11 votes in the latest release.
Prince of Peace (10-1) will play in Manny’s Shootout over the weekend.
Late heroics spark Irish win
Paige Kuehl didn’t look like a sophomore in one of the biggest moments of her young career.
Trailing 41-40 with 15 seconds remaining in regulation, the Prince of Peace guard streaked down the floor, forcing a pair of defenders to converge near the free throw line.
Kuehl feigned a shot attempt with a leap, instead slipping a clever interior pass to freshman Lilly Isenhour, whose layup hoisted the Irish to a 42-41 victory over Calamus-Wheatland before a boisterous Tri-Rivers Conference crowd.
Prince of Peace coach Dave Nelson smiled at the mention of Kuehl’s impromptu play.
“We have talked about situations like this when the clock is running out and what we want,” Nelson said. “And that was similar to what we were hoping for but she created on her own, too.
“It was a job well done, to say the least.”
The Irish came out of the gates sluggish on offense, mustering just 17 points in the first half to take a nine-point deficit into the intermission.
Then something clicked.
Prince of Peace opened the third quarter on a decisive 14-3 run, aided by six points from Kuehl, who finished with a team-high 12 points.
Nelson said the difference in production revolved around ball movement.
“We got movement, we have a tendency to stand around,” Nelson said. “We also had some transition going and the movement was much better... and that is the key because we don’t have a lot of big players.”
There was little open space inside a cramped Cal-Wheat gymnasium, creating an intense environment for the players. The Warriors’ student section was raucous, ditto their spectators.
But the Irish faithful traveled well, and Kuehl was pleased to reward their 40-minute trip with a win.
“This is one of the biggest crowds we have ever had,” Kuehl said. “Everyone was so loud and the pressure was on. I just wanted to make the crowd who traveled out here to watch us feel good, be happy and have a great game.”
Calamus-Wheatland put the ball in the hands of its leading scorer Grace Elvert in the final seconds. But the senior failed to get a shot off, effectively ending Prince of Peace’s three-game losing skid.
Nelson said the win was important to help create separation in the middle of the conference. Plus, it can only help the team’s postseason seed.
“This is starting to become a rivalry for these two teams,” Nelson said. “We were going through another tough run... these games coming up are going to be competitive games that we need to win and it was great to see the kids do it.”
Isenhour finished with nine points while Anabel Blount and Isabel Hansen both had eight.
Prince of Peace returns to action in Manny’s Shootout play Saturday.