Simply put, the Trojans turned the Gopher offense into an out-and-out scramble from the opening tip, resulting in few, if any, uncontested shots. Prairie did get out to smallish early leads of 5-3 and 8-6 on a meager first-period effort of 3 for 8 from the floor, but was tainted by by six turnovers.
The Trojans hit just 2 of 8 first-quarter shots and still managed an 8-8 tie at the first stop. The turning point came midway through the second period with Prairie in front, 17-12. Dalton Davis threaded a trey, and Seth Blunck, Smith and Leininger hit to ignite a 12-3 run for a 24-20 TC halftime command.
TC, led by the three hoops of Leininger, four points by Davis, three by Dowell and baskets by Smith and Blunck, went a torrid 7 of 11 for the period, and the Gophers were held to four fielders in 10 tries. Prairie had just seven baskets in the first 16 minutes, and nine costly errors only added to its problem.
Tri-Central quickly upped the spread to 31-20 to start the third period, and Prairie didn’t touch the net until sophomore Kale Morris nailed a trey with 2:42 remaining. He followed with another 3 to make it 31-26, but Howell meshed his second trey of the quarter to give it a 34-26 look heading into the final period.
The telling blow came when Smith and Blunck ran off eight quick tallies to open the final act, and the lead grew to a spacious 45-28 with 4:35 to play. Prairie had just two baskets in 10 third-quarter attempts and finished with just four hoops in its final 12 tries.
Smith took over the Trojan offense in the final act with two buckets and 8 of 11 free throws, and Blunck added the final five of his 10 tallies. Morris tried to keep the Gophers alive with the final seven of his 16 points, but other than that CP managed just four free ones and a field goal.