EUGENE, Mo. - The Eugene Eagles are blessed with an arsenal of long-range shooters. It was on full display Saturday afternoon.
Four Eagles drained at least one 3-pointer as Eugene finished with 11 on the game, including nine in the first half alone, as they held off a late Blair Oaks' rally for an 86-72 victory.
"We have a lot of guys that shoot well from 3," Eugene head coach Craig Engelbrecht said after his team notched its 13th game of the season with double-digit 3-pointers. "This is probably the best shooting team I've had in a lot of years. A lot of them have the green light."
How dangerous is Eugene from beyond the arc? Seven of those 3s came from bench players. Senior guard Drew Geritz accounted for six of those, going 6-for-8 from deep in the opening half.
"It's awesome. Not too many times I get to shoot like that," Geritz said.
Geritz's barrage of 3s sparked a huge first half for Eugene. The Eagles raced out to an 8-0 advantage with the help of 3s from Cody Shaw and Tyler Kempker.
"We do lots of shooting drills in practice," Shaw said. "We try to get as many shots up as we can. After practice, before practice, working on our shot. We have four or five guys that can all hit 3s consistently."
Eugene held a 19-10 lead after one quarter thanks to a late 3 from Geritz - his first of the contest - with the clock winding down.
It was the same story in the second period. Geritz connected on 5-of-6 attempts from beyond the arc in the frame. Ahead just 28-22 midway through the quarter, Eugene used to a 24-5 surge to take a 52-27 halftime lead. Eugene sat at 9-for-17 from 3-point range at the intermisison.
"They're hard to guard," Blair Oaks head coach Ryan Fick said. "When a guy comes off the bench and hits six 3s, and I think they hit 11 as a team, you kind of pick your poison.
"They shoot the ball well, and they really shoot the ball well at home. We've played them twice over here now, and I think they've hit a combined 23 3s. You prepare for it, but when they're knocking shots down with a hand in their face, and it's multiple guys, they have so many options from behind the 3-point line, they're just difficult to guard."
Blair Oaks wouldn't go quietly, though.
Trailing 56-30 early in the third period, the Falcons used a 15-4 surge to climb within 60-45.
"I've been around our group of kids long enough to know they're not going to roll over," Fick said. "They had a lot of fight in them in the second half."
Eugene was able to close the period on a 9-2 run to take a 69-47 lead into the final quarter.
Game over, right? Not a chance.
Blair Oaks went to work on both ends of the floor. The Falcons opened the fourth stanza with a 17-5 run to get within 74-64 with 3:50 to play.
One of the biggest keys to the surge was Blair Oaks taking away the 3-point line. Eugene didn't attempt a 3 in the final quarter and finished 2-of-4 from beyond the arc in the second half.
"We just did a better job closing out," Fick said. "We really challenged our guys on the ball to do a better job of limiting the dribble-drive. We got good help, and then we got to shooters and contested shots. They cooled off a little bit, I don't know if we had anything to do with it."
Offensively, the Falcons were adamant on attacking the basket. They finished 22-of-38 from inside the arc, including 15-of-22 in the second half.
"We felt like the little success we had in the first half was going to the basket," Fick said. "We made a point of emphasis of that at halftime. We cut it to 10 there and we came up with a couple empty possessions where we settled for jump shots after one or two possessions and didn't attack. That was a point in the game we point to."
Eugene was able to withstand the rally to hold on for the win thanks to Shaw and some clutch free-throw shooting. Shaw scored 10 of his 24 points in the final frame, connecting on all eight of his foul shots in the period. Eugene went 11-for-13 from the charity stripe in the quarter.
"We knew that Blair Oaks is such a good team and they've been here before," Engelbrecht said. "We knew they weren't going to go away, and they have a lot of pride. I was really proud of our guys stepping up, making some layups there at the end and making our free throws. We showed a lot of heart."
Kempker equaled Shaw with 24 points, hitting a trio of 3s. Geritz tallied 19 points as the Eagles finished 11-of-21 from beyond the arc.
Kory Franks paced Blair Oaks with 21 points, Haydn Lock poured in 19 on an efficient 10 field-goal attempts, Chandler Haxton added 12 points and nine rebounds and Logan Bax had 10 points and eight rebounds.
These teams could meet for a third time in a loaded Class 3 District 6 Tournament later this month. Eugene also owns a 78-74 win against Blair Oaks in early December.
"It could be," Fick said. "It's a tough district top to bottom. The top six seeds are going to come in with winning records. Both teams are probably going to have to play a couple very tough games to even see each other. There's a long way between now and then."
Blair Oaks (16-4) hosts Eldon on Tuesday.
Eugene (18-1) travels Tuesday to Fatima.
"We knew it was going to be a rough game coming in," Shaw said. "Blair Oaks and Eugene, it's always a good battle. We're not considered rivals, but it may as well be. Every time they come you know it's going to be a rough game. Close battle every time and we pulled this one out today."