The Paola Panthers Boys Basketball team took on the second ranked team in Class 4-A in the visiting Girard Trojans on Tuesday, January 6, 2009 at the PHS Gym, but the Panthers were not gracious hosts, as they came away with a thrilling 48-47 victory on the strength of a Travis Hayes free throw with less than a second to play in the game.
“Travis may have hit the final free throw,” said Panther Head Coach Dave Cash. “But it took the whole team to get that win.”
The Panthers didn’t get the memo that the unbeaten Trojans held such a lofty rank, as Paola tuned three point first quarter and half time deficits, into a six point lead at the end of the third quarter.
The Panthers were able to hang tough with Girard, on the strength of six first quarter points by Isaac Cotton, who paced the Panthers with 16 points as he returned to the line-up after sitting out the last couple of games before the holiday break. Adam Henn and Michael Bryson each hit buckets in the first period to keep the Panthers within striking distance at 13-10.
Skylar Hawkins opened the second quarter with bucket to cut the lead to one, but Girard jumped back to a four point advantage on a Darian Kelley three pointer. Cotton hit a free throw and Jonathan Pomatto hit a bucket for the Panthers and the Girard lead was back to one. J.D. Heatherly nailed a trey to give the Trojans a four point advantage, but Bryson and Hayes hit back to back buckets to tie the game again at 19. Kelley hit his second three pointer of the quarter to close out the half with the Trojans holding a slim three point lead at 22-19.
The Panthers came out on a mission in the third quarter. After Girard opened their biggest lead of the game on a basket by Tanner Poppe to open the quarter, at 24-19, Bryson and Cotton hit baskets to shave the lead to just one at 24-23.
Johnny Webb hit a basket for Girard to move the lead back to three, before Cotton and Pomatto hit baskets and Pomotto hit a free throw to give the Pantehrs their first lead of the game at 28-26. Single free throws by Poppe and Webb tied the game at 28, before Adam Henn and Cotton hit baskets to open a 34-28 lead for the Panthers. Poppe and Brandon Earsman traded buckets to close the period and the Panthers lead 36-30 at the end of the third period.
Hayes hits free throw to upset ranked Girard
Paola upped the lead to double digits at 40-30 on the strength of three point play by Hayes and a the front end of a one and one by Pomatto.
Girard then began to show why they were the second ranked team in the state, as they began to chip away at the Panther lead. Poppe hit two baskets and two of three free throws to cut the lead to 41-36, before Cash called time out with just over five minutes to play in the game.
Kelley hit a three point play coming out of the time out to cut the Panther lead to three at 41-39. Cotton hit two free throws to move the lead back to four at 43-39. Eric Strukel hit the front end of a one and one, before Webb nailed a three point basket for the Trojans to tie the score at 43-43.
Cotton hit a basket and Kelley answered with two free throws to keep the score knotted at 45. Cotton hit the first of two free throws to give the Panthers a one point lead with just over a minute to play. Hayes hit the second of two free throws to give the Panthers a two point lead at 47-45. Poppe hit a basket to tie the score at 47 with 12 seconds to play in the game.
The Panthers called time out to set up a final play, which saw Hayes fouled with a half second to play in the game. Girard called time out to ice Hayes and it appeared the strategy worked as Hayes missed the first of the two free throws. But, Hayes nailed the second free throw and the Panthers came away with a giant upset victory.
“The real question is how will we handle this,” said Cash. “Just because we beat the second ranked team in the state doesn’t guarantee well win another game.”
Cash told his team following the game that he was pleased with the effort given by his players.
“We were ready to play,” Cash said. “You deserve to win that game.”
The Panthers will travel to DeSoto on Friday, before visiting Ottawa and hosting Baldwin next week.