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The finish is the key

Panthers leave too many points on the floor in loss

WLH0260 Sometimes moral victories are good things, but for the Paola Panthers Boys basketball team, moral victories are growing old. The Panthers are still learning how to win, and the lessons are tough sometimes, as Paola has learned in the last week. One week ago the Panthers were able to finish the game and handed the second ranked team in the state, Girard their first loss of the season.

Last Friday, the Panthers fought the DeSoto Wildcats to the wire before falling on the road. The Panthers returned to the road on Tuesday, January 13, 2009, taking on the Ottawa Cyclones, and again fought down to the wire before dropping a 47-41 decision.

The Panthers played with intensity on defense, but found it tough to finish the deal in the second half, as they were unable to hold first quarter and halftime leads. In fact, the Panthers had numerous opportunities in the second half with point blank range, but were unable convert field goals that would have given the Panthers the opportunity to win.

“We had a bunch of good looks, but we have to finish,” said Panther Head Coach Dave Cash. “We had 15 point blank looks and didn’t finish, we have to be on balance and finish.”

The Panthers jumped out on top of the Cyclones from the outset, after Adam Maxwell gave the Cyclones a 2-0 lead off the opening tip, Adam Henn tied the game with two free throws and two Michael Bryson field goals sandwiched around a Jonathan Pomatto field goal gave the Panthers an 8-2 lead. Adam Hasty cut the lead to four at 8-4 before Isaac Cotton bumped the lead back six at 10-4. Hasty hit a trey to cut the lead to three before Pomato hit the second of two free throws to give the Panthers a four point 11-7 lead.

Jake Moore hit three of four free throws and a field goal to give the Cyclones a 12-11 lead before Cotton hit a field goal to give the Panthers back the lead at 13-12. Hasty hit two free throws for the Cyclones and a 14-13 lead, but then Pomatto hit a field goal and a three pointer at the buzzer to give Paola a 18-14 lead at the end of the period.

The Cyclones opened hot to start the second quarter, as Maxwell hit a three pointer and Hasty a field goal to give the Cyclones a 19-18 lead. Hayes and Hasty traded threes to make the score 22-21 in favor of the Cylcones, and then the Panthers went on a 6-0 run to end the half on the strength of two field goals by Hayes and a lay-up off a steal and length of the court drive by Cotton.

WLH0294 “Hasty’s a good player,” Cash said. “You don’t first team all league in our league as a freshman and not be good.”

The Cyclones came out aggressive to start the third quarter, following a free throw by Chase Dengel and a Pomatto field goal kept the Panther lead at six, 29-23. But the Cyclones would come roaring back on a 9-0 run, fueled by a steal by Hasty, a three pointer by Eric Messenger and field goals by Kevin Barber and Hasty. Hayes and Hasty traded free throws to close out the quarter with Cyclones clinging to a slim 34-31 lead.

The Cyclones would use a bucket and free throw by Moore against a free throw by Hayes to take a five point lead at 37-32. The Panthers called time out with 4:49 to play, and Pomatto hit a big three pointer coming out of the time out to cut the lead to two at 37-35. But Hasty would answer with a basket and Maxwell would hit a trey to build an eight point 42-35 lead for the Cyclones with two and a half minutes to play.

Nick Wilson hit a close in jumper to cut the lead to six at 42-37 before Hasty hit the front end of two one and one situations around another Wilson basket and the Cyclone lead was five at 44-39. Adam Henn hit the Panthers final basket to cut the lead to three, but that was as close as the Panthers would come, as Barber hit the second of two free throws and then with 12 seconds to play hit two free throws to give the Cyclones their final, six point lead at 47-41.

“We’re playing hard defensively, with a lot of energy,” Cash said. “We’re three and five, and we’re getting better, we keep learning, keep building.”

The Panthers face a tough Baldwin team, on Friday at home, and then will travel to Burlington next week to take part in the annual Burlington Tournament.