The Pawhuska boys basketball team turned up the pressure on offense and defense in the third-place game of the Pawhuska Invitational Basketball tournament, and found a style of play that will carry them through the 2018 portion of their schedule, Coach Luke Christenson said.

The Huskies captured the third-place trophy with a 61-53 win over Wesleyan Christian, which had beaten PHS in the season opener.

In the WCS rematch, the Huskies used pressure defense and a motion offense to jump out to a 27-10 first quarter lead. However, they didn’t have the stamina to maintain the intensity for four quarters. Wesleyan Christian mounted a third-quarter comeback, but the Huskies rallied in the fourth for the win.

The Huskies returned to the court Tuesday on the road at Newkirk. They host Dewey Friday. The game will start after the girl’s contest, which begins at 6:30 p.m.

Christenson said the Huskies did a lot of running during Christmas break to make sure they can play that style of basketball for a full four quarters.

“We told the guys we love that style,” he said. “We asked ‘Do you guys like it?’ and they said ‘Oh yeah.’

The Pawhuska players worked on conditioning and shooting during the holiday break.

The Huskies improved during the 2017 portion of the season, the coach said, adding it’s been a learning process for him, the coaching staff and the team.

“We’ve been searching for an identity,” Christenson said. “We have so many young guys that I wasn’t sure what the right thing to do with these guys. We kind of have that figured out, I think, but we haven’t been doing it very long.”

The Huskies are starting three sophomores — Evan Frye, Easton Kirk and J.T. Waddle — and two seniors — Brian Jeffers and Brayden Wilson. The non-starters also are developing and earning more and more playing time.

Sam West, Matthew Miles and Tre Harper made contributions in the Pawhuska tournament.

“The bench has had good players on it this whole time. It’s a matter of me learning how to use them,” Christenson said. “There’s a lot of learning —not so much on those guys part as much as me know how to mix them in without having a falloff. We are headed in the right direction.”