Close but no Cigar!

Panthers push DeSoto to limit before falling late

WLH0264 In a game that definitely closer than the final score indicated, the Paola Panther Boys lost to the DeSoto Wildcats 47-35 at DeSoto on Friday, January 9, 2009.

The twelve point final advantage was not indicative of the way the game went, as Paola clawed their way to a four point, 33-29 lead over DeSoto with five minutes to play in the game, only to see a quick eight point barrage by the Wildcats tuned the four point deficit to a four point advantage in less than two minutes. It was a run the Panthers would not recover from.

“With about four minutes left, it was anybody’s ball game,” said Panther Head Coach Dave Cash. “We didn’t handle last few minutes of the game very well, but we have no excuses, we have to do that to win ball games.”

The going was tough for the Panthers from the start, in fact, the game could have gotten really ugly, quickly, as DeSoto managed to jump to a 10-2 lead at the end of the first period. The Panthers could have folded their tent and played out the game, but that has not been the demeanor of this team.

“I like this team,” Cash continued. “We may struggle to score sometimes, but we battle as well as any team I’ve ever coached.”

Battle they did, with DeSoto showing a willingness to let the Panthers stay in the game by chucking three pointers up as fast as they could, and missing they equally fast, the Panthers rode baskets by Jonathan Pomatto, Travis Hayes and a three from Isaac Cotton to open the second period on a 7-0 run to cut the DeSoto lead to one at 10-9.

DeSoto managed to right the ship a little through the remainder of the half, outscoring Paola 10-5 to take a 20-14 lead to the intermission.

The teams traded baskets though most of the third period, with the Panthers cutting the lead to only two at 24-22 on the strength of two free throws and a baskte by Pomatto.

WLH0226 Adam Henn got the game tied for the first time since the opening tip-off as he hit a basket with 2:33 to play in the third period. Brandon Hudson gave the Wildcats a four point lead heading to the final period by hitting a field goal and a trey sandwiched around a single free throw from Nick Wilson to make the score 29-25 at the end of three periods.

Hayes, Pomatto and Skylar Hawkins lead the Panthers on an 8-0 run to open the final period giving Paola their first and only lead of the game at 33-29 with just under five minutes to play.

Hudson remained hot from beyond the arc for the Wildcats, as he hit two long range jumpers and Jamel Thompson dropped in two pointer to erase the four point deficit and give the Wildcats a four point advantage again, prompting Cash to call time out with just over three minutes to play in the game.

The time out didn’t slow the Wildcats, as Mason Wedle hit a jumper to move the lead back to six points at 39-33.

Two more Panther time outs failed to stop the run, as Hudson and Townsend hit free throws to stretch the lead to nine at 42-33. Things could have been worse for the Panthers, as the Wildcats hit only thee of six possible free throw attempts.

Pomatto hit a jumper to stop the run and make the score 42-35, but it would be the last points the Panthers would be able to muster, as the Wildcats closed the scoring hitting three more free throws and a jumper to make the final advantage 12 at 47-35.

“There’s two things that are keeping us in games,” Cash said. “One, we’re playing great defense, and two we’re playing together.”

“We’re getting better,” he continued. “We have two tough games next week, starting with a tough Ottawa team at their place, and ending with Baldwin.”

The Panthers will travel to Ottawa on Tuesday, January 13, 2009 and then host Baldwin before entering tournament play at Burlington the week after next.