Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013, 10:00 pm

Great start carries Prophets to regional win

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By Aaron Dail, sports@qconline.com

More photos from this shoot
Photo: Paul Colletti
Prophetstown's Devin Johnson is fouled by Amboy's Damon Quest during the second half of the IHSA Class 1A Erie Regional on Monday, February 18, 2013.
More photos from this shoot
Photo: Paul Colletti
Prophetstown's Grant Ames is pressured by Amboy defender Zach Piper during the second half of the IHSA Class 1A Erie Regional on Monday, February 18, 2013.
ERIE — The Prophetstown Prophets boys' basketball team has had trouble finding its groove at times this season, but with a strong senior core, the Prophets proved they know when it's time to play their best.

Prophetstown's suffocating man-to-man defense held Amboy scoreless for the first 6:30 of the game, and the Prophets took a double digit lead and held it through the end of the game for a 73-51 victory in the first round of the Class 1A Erie boys regional on Monday night.

"It's do-or-die time for us seniors, you lose and you go home. We're just looking to play another day," said Prophets senior forward Zach Inskeep, who scored 16 points and played tight defense on Amboy's leading scorer Tyson Powers (19 points on 7-20 shooting). "The postseason is what we've worked for all year."

Prophetstown (14-14) jumped out to 13-0 lead in the first quarter with Inskeep, Devin Johnson(game-high 23 points, four steals, four assists) and Ethan Howard (15 points, including 3-for-3 from downtown) providing the scoring. Inskeep scored twice inside, Johnson had a steal and score to go with another layup, and Howard knocked down a 3-ball and another jumper.

"It's now or never," said Johnson, another Prophet senior who turned it up for the postseason. "I don't think we're a .500 team; we're better than that. We have our identity now, and it will be a different game this time vs. Paw Paw."

The fourth-seeded Prophets will face top-seeded Paw Paw tonight at 7:30 p.m. after being defeated by them handily in the regular season. That was the only game scheduled for tonight, but that changed. Monday's second game was postponed when the town of Erie lost power early in the evening with Shabbona (Indian Creek) leading LaMoille 21-7. That game resumes at 6 tonight.

Amboy (6-21) couldn't muster much offense throughout the first half, as they shot 50 percent from the field, but attempted just 14 shots.

"We didn't get enough shots up," said Amboy coach Chase Goodeill, whose Clippers trailed 31-15 at half. "We have been an inconsistent team all season. The first quarter and starting down 13-0 was a testament to what we've been all year. In a regional game, you can't shoot like that. You have to play do or die in the postseason."

The Prophets already knew that. The orange and black defense didn't let up in the second half, and Amboy still had trouble finding shots to take until the fourth quarter when the pace picked up dramatically but the Prophetstown lead didn't shrink.

Johnson was at his best in the transition game and scored 17 of his 23 points in the second half and literally ran away from Amboy defenders in the fast-paced fourth quarter.

"We played really well defensively, and when our defense sets the tone it opens up our offense," said Prophetstown coach Cordell Juhola. "Zach (Inskeep) did a good job defensively on Powers, Josh Green did a great job on (Damon) Quest and that opened things up for Devin, and he had a great game."

Prophetstown shot 13-of-17 from the charity stripe in the fourth quarter and were a perfect 5-for-5 from 3-point land on the evening, showing that they have found their groove, which should help make this a very interesting regional.