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Less than gracious hosts

Burlington downs Panthers in fifth place game

WLH0279 The Paola Panther Boys Basketball squad seems to be learning some tough lessons this season, as once again they played a gritty, tough game for all 32 minutes, and probably did enough to win, only to have one player turn in a monster game and turn the tide for the opponent. Earlier in the season it was Gardner’s Bubba Starling who pulled the Trailblazers away from the Panthers in the fourth quarter. This time it as Burlington’s Corey Smith who was unconscious at times in the game, hitting six three pointers, to go along with two field goals and all four of his free throw attempts for 26 points, all of which proved to be Panther killers.

In the end, the host Wildcats pulled away from the Panthers and sealed a seven point 58-51 victory to earn the fifth place trophy.

The game started well for the Panthers as Adam Henn hit a three pointer to open the game and Jonathan Pomatto added the second of two free throws to give Paola a 4-0 lead early in the game. Smith and Pomatto traded baskets to keep the lead at four, 6-4 before Zach Patton cut the lead to two with a basket. The lead stayed at two as Jeremy Black and Isaac Cotton each hit one of two free throws, before Smith went crazy in the last couple of minutes of the quarter, hitting his second two pointer of the game and then nailing two three pointers to turn a two point deficit into a six point, 13-7 Burlington lead at the end of the period.

The Panthers shaved the lead to four on a basket by Travis Hayes, before Smith again burned the Paola defense for two three pointers sandwiched around a basket by his teammate Peter Sunseri and the Wildcats were threatening to run away and hide from the Panthers with a 19-11 lead.

Michael Bryson and Hawkins traded baskets with Mackenzie Redding for Burlington and the lead remained eight points at 23-17. Cotton and Bryson hit baskets to answer Black and Patton for the Wildcats and the team headed to the locker room for the halftime intermission with Burlington holding a 27-19 lead.

The Panthers had the opportunity to fold their tent, call it a night an just kind of mail in the game, but true to form, Paola came out of the halftime break dedicated to getting back into the game, and get back in it they did. During the first half of the third quarter, Bryson and Hayes carried the Panthers from the eight point deficit to trailing by only five, as Bryson hit two field goals and Hayes hit one plus a three pointer which were countered by Burlington baskets by Redding and Black, an with a little more than four minutes to play in the period the lead was trimmed to only three at 31-28.

Burlington was able to extend the lead to five on a basket by Ryan Louia, but Brandon Erisman hit a three pointer and a field goal to pull the Panthers into a tie at 33-33. Louia and Black answered for Burlington with baskets and Patten added two free throws which were answered by baskets by Pomatto and Bryson, and what was a nine point half-time lead had been cut to a two point, 39-37 lead at the end of the third quarter.

WLH0242 The Panthers had nearly climbed all the way back, but Black opened the final period with a field goal to bump the lead to four points for Burlington. Smith traded three pointers with Hayes and Henn for the Panthers, and the lead remained at four points, 47-43. Redding and Louia sandwiched baskets around a two pointer by Bryson, before Hayes knocked down another three pointer, and when the Panthers called time out with 2:18 to play, they trailed by only three points at 51-48.

The Panthers would climb to within two, at 51-48 on a Hayes free throw, but that was as close as they would come, as Burlington called time out at the 1:12 mark following the Hayes free throws. After the time out, Redding hit a bucket to up the lead to four, and Smith hit two free throws with less than a minute to play to make the lead six at 55-49. Black hit the front end of a one and one to give Burlington a seven point 56-49 lead. A basket by Hayes with eleven seconds to play in the game cut the lead to five, but Smith’s final two free throws two seconds later sealed the game for Burlington 58-51.

“You played a pretty good tournament,” said Panthers Head Coach Dave Cash. “And we have a tough schedule to play the rest of the way, starting with Mill Valley on Tuesday night.”

In the end it was the little things that have been the undoing of the Panthers this year, and some of their bad habits crept into play again Saturday night. The players and coaches agreed they would continue to work and improving those areas.

“We have to make the other team play defense,” Cash said. “We can’t just go down, make one pass and throw it up and then go play defense, we have to get movement, and when we do, we score.”

The Panthers will travel to Mill Valley on Tuesday, January 27, 2009 before concluding the January portion of their schedule against Eudora, also on the road.