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EUREKA — Jackson Puetz knows his role on the Fieldcrest boys basketball team.
As a sophomore reserve, the guard has adapted his game this season from a point guard to a shooter to better fit the Knights’ offense.
In Tuesday’s Class 2A Eureka Regional semifinal against Peoria Christian, Puetz fit his new role to a T.
Actually, make that to a 3.
Puetz scored a game-high 16 points and hit four 3-point shots, including back-to-back 3-pointers late in the third quarter that helped spark a 22-0 Fieldcrest run.
The Knights used the big surge to overcome a slow, sluggish start and rode it to a 56-43 victory over the Chargers.
“(Fieldcrest senior and 2011-12 NewsTribune Basketball Player of the Year) Brady (Sanders) is the main focal point of the other team’s defense,” Puetz said. “But it feels good that when he’s getting double teamed that he knows there’s somebody on the other side of the floor who can knock down a shot. Anybody on our team can do it. It just happened that I was there, he hit me with the perfect pass and I nailed it.”
With Fieldcrest down 33-29 with 4:03 left in the third quarter, the Knights finally awoke.
A basket by Fieldcrest senior Nick Panzica cut the deficit to 33-31, and a hoop from Puetz tied the game at 33-33 with 3:22 left in the quarter.
That’s when the Knights really took off.
Back-to-back 3-point shots by Puetz gave Fieldcrest the lead for good, and a basket in the lane by Sanders with two seconds left in the quarter closed a 12-0 run to end the quarter and gave the Knights a 41-33 lead entering the fourth.
“They switched to man and Brady found Jackson on the weakside two times in a row, and that really sparked us,” Fieldcrest coach Matt Winkler said. “(Puetz) is a big-game shooter. He comes off the bench and gives us a lift.”
Fieldcrest extended the run into the fourth quarter as a bucket and a three-point play from senior Kyle Crowley gave the Knights a 46-33 lead with 7:26 remaining.
A free throw and a lay-in from Sanders pushed the lead to 49-33 with 5:12 to go before another basket by Crowley completed the 22-0 rally and gave Fieldcrest a 51-33 lead with 4:32 left.
Nearly a minute later, Peoria Christian coach Fred Fox pulled his starters and conceded the game.
“Our defense really propelled (the run), too,” Winkler said. “We played really good defense and got stops.”
It was a far cry from how Fieldcrest started the game.
Peoria Christian scored the game’s first nine points and held Sanders scoreless at half.
“If you wrote the script, you couldn’t have written any better at the start,” Fox said.
The Chargers (18-11) took an 18-10 lead with 5:58 left in the second quarter before Fieldcrest went on a 17-9 rally to end the half.
A 3-pointer at the buzzer by Fieldcrest freshman Drew Barth gave the Knights a 27-25 lead at half.
However, Peoria Christian started the third quarter on an 8-2 run to take a 33-29 lead before Fieldcrest went on its 22-0 surge.
The Chargers went 7 minutes, 31 seconds without a field goal before their reserves finally scored with 2:50 left in the game.
“We just had a hard time getting back in sync (after the start),” Fox said. “They made it hard to score for us.”
In addition to Puetz, Sanders finished with 12 second-half points for Fieldcrest.
Andrew Gavin had 10 points for Peoria Christian, which saw top scorer Ricky Carter manage just two free throws.
With the win, Fieldcrest (22-5) will play for the regional title at 7:30 p.m. Friday against the winner of today’s semifinal between No. 2-seeded Tri-Valley (20-7) and No. 3-seeded Eureka (18-7).
“Whoever wins will be a great challenge for us,” said Winkler, whose team has beaten Tri-Valley but lost to Eureka. “They are both great teams.”
Jared Bell can be reached at 220-6938, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsJared.
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