Prexies continue roll; win big at Ringgold

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MONONGAHELA – Washington High School’s first Tuesday road game of the young season put the Prexies to the test.

After a weekend tournament at Canon-McMillan that included wins over the Big Macs and crosstown rival Trinity, Wash High traveled to Ringgold to face a young AAA opponent.

The Prexies shook off rust in the first half with a dominant third quarter and defeated Ringgold, 57-34.

With Wash High (3-0) leading 19-17 at halftime, sophomore forward Nate Swart scored 12 points in the third quarter to spark a 20-5 run in less than five minutes as the Prexies pulled away from the Rams, who feature only three seniors on a freshman-heavy roster.

“I have coached against Washington for a long time and this might be one of the better teams they have had,” Ringgold coach Phil Pergola said. “They distribute the ball well and they knock down shots when they need to.”

After a first half in which the sophomore struggled, Swart led the Prexies in two dominant quarters of basketball. Swart finished the game with 22 points – the lone player in double figures – and his three-pointer capped an impressive rally by the Prexies, who defeated a Triple-A opponent just three days after beating Quad-A Canon-McMillan on the road.

“I felt like we came out flat in the first half,” Wash High head coach Mark Gaither said. “After a long weekend, we just didn’t have the energy. Sometimes you miss easy shots, but you always have to have that energy. We changed a few things and we dictated the tempo of the second half.”

Wash High scored the first nine points of the fourth quarter to build upon the lead it created with the Swart-led outburst in the third quarter.

“Tuesday road games, you are coming off a long weekend of games with school and everything else, so it’s a test at first,” Swart said. “We came out in the second half and coach gave us a speech that we could either get a close win or bust the game open.”

The opening minutes did not reflect Wash High’s conservative offensive approach in the season’s first two games. The Prexies turned the ball over on three of their four possessions to open the game, forcing passes in the lane and not utilizing the team’s size advantage over Ringgold.

In the second quarter, the Prexies began to show the aggressive style of play that led to two wins to begin the season. Wash High opened the quarter on a 6-0 run behind the steady play of Swart and senior guard Dupree Jenkins, but the highlight of the first half was the play of junior point guard Jon Spina.

“Nate is a force,” Gaither said. “With his strength and his ability to extend the defense to knock down some jumpers, he’s a great player. The great thing is that it’s been a total team effort. We have a lot of guys that are doing different things for us.”

Spina, who came off the bench against Ringgold, blocked a three-point attempt by Rams junior Alec Varley to set up a fast break by the Prexies. The junior was fouled on his layup attempt, but less than two minutes later, Spina showed his athleticism by going underneath the hoop for a one-handed lay-in. Wash High junior DeQuay Isbell and Swart followed with baskets of their own as the Prexies also closed the first half with a 6-0 run against Ringgold.

“We’re just playing good basketball right now,” Swart said. “We are getting good shots and rebounding is our biggest strength. If we keep doing those things, we’ll be tough to beat.”

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