MINONK — Kyle Crowley was never worried.
With the Fieldcrest boys basketball team down by 10 points midway through the second quarter of Friday’s Heart of Illinois Conference game against El Paso-Gridley, it looked as if things were on the verge of getting away from the Knights.
Fieldcrest never panicked.
It just took over.
A bucket from Crowley sparked an 18-3 Knights run to end the half, and the run included back-to-back 3-point shots by Fieldcrest senior Nick Panzica and Crowley that helped turn the double-digit deficit into a 59-41 runaway victory over the Titans.
“We just had to keep our composure,” Crowley said. “We had to play in the present and not worry about what had happened. We kept playing hard and went on a big run to get our confidence back.”
The win keeps Fieldcrest (13-3, 6-0 HOIC) — which earlier this week received the No. 1 seed in the HOIC/McLean County Tournament — in first place in the conference ahead of Tri-Valley (13-5, 6-1 HOIC) and EP-G (9-7, 4-2 HOIC), which received the Nos. 2-3 seeds, respectively, in the tournament.
“If we had lost, we would’ve been tied with (EP-G) and Tri-Valley, so it’s a big win and a step toward winning the conference championship, which we want to do,” Fieldcrest coach Matt Winkler said. “But it’s still a long way to go, and we’re only halfway there.”
With the Titans shooting 7-for-9 in the first quarter, EP-G took a 19-14 lead after the first quarter.
The advantage grew to 25-15 with 5:17 left in the second quarter.
That’s when the Titans cooled and Fieldcrest awoke.
Crowley’s bucket started the second-quarter surge as the back-to-back 3-point shots from Panzica and Crowley pulled the Knights to 26-23 with 3:57 left in the half.
Fieldcrest finally broke through and took the lead for good when sophomore guard Jackson Puetz hit a baseline jumper to give Fieldcrest a 29-28 advantage.
Another basket from Crowley and a bucket from senior Brady Sanders gave the Knights a 33-28 lead at half and completed the surge.
Sanders carried the momentum into the third quarter as he scored eight of Fieldcrest’s 12 points in the frame and helped the Knights take a 47-36 lead after three quarters.
The Knights put away the game in the fourth quarter.
With Fieldcrest up 47-38 with 7:26 to go, the Knights went on a 12-3 run to end the game and complete a 44-16 rally over the contest’s final 21:09.
“They’ve got some guys who can put it in the hole, and they have a lot of weapons,” EP-G coach Nathaniel Meiss said. “They did a good job when we had them down of keeping their composure and battling back. On the flip side, when things started to get tight, we didn’t do as good of a job of keeping our composure.”
Sanders finished with a game-high 21 points, while Crowley added 16 points and a team-high six rebounds.
EP-G was led by 6-foot-4 senior post Bodee Schlipf, who grabbed a game-high seven rebounds and scored 16 points, eight of which came in the first quarter.
Note: El Paso-Gridley held on to win the sophomore game 44-41. Fieldcrest’s Ryan Barth missed a game-tying 3-point shot at the buzzer but did finish with a team-high 15 points. Matthew Modro had 10 points in the loss.
Jared Bell can be reached at 220-6938, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsJared.