Panthers see third straight lead slip, down Louisburg
The old saying goes, “third time’s a charm” and the Paola Panther Boys Basketball team lived up to that adage on Friday night, as for the third straight game the Panthers took a double digit lead into the second half, and for the third straight game the Panthers saw that lead disappear as the Louisburg Wildcats came from ten points down with three minutes to play in the game to cut the Panther lead to four with just under a minute to play in the game, only to see the Panthers hang on for a six point, 72-66 victory on senior night.
The Panthers have made a habit over the past three games of building big leads only to see their opponents come roaring back in the second half. To the Panthers credit, they continued to maintain their lead through the third and fourth periods, but in the end a few quick shots, and untimely cold shooting from the free throw line made this game a lot closer than in should have been.
The Wildcats jumped to a 2-0 lead on a basket by Garrett Griffin, but the Panthers answered with a 10-2 run to open a 10-4 lead, with a basket by Travis Hayes ending the run and prompting the ‘Cats to call time out with just under three and a half minutes to play in the quarter.
The teams traded baskets through the rest of the quarter, with back to back baskets by Brint Hastert and Michael Bryson opening a six point, 16-10 lead for the Panthers. The Wildcats sliced the lead in half on the strength of a three point play by Drew Kershner, and the Panthers took a three point, 16-13 lead to the second quarter.
The Panthers bumped the lead to seven on the strength of baskets by Isaac Cotton and Brandon Erisman. Hayes and Erisman sandwiched baskets around a three pointer by O’Brien and the Panther lead was six at 22-16. Jonathan Pomatto hit the first of two free throws and Travis Hayes got a basket off the Pomatto miss and the Panther lead grew to nine points at 25-16. Erisman and Pomatto added one basket each and the Panthers lead and ballooned to 29-16.
The Wildcats went on a 6-0 run and the Panther lead was cut to seven at 29-22, prompting Panther Coach Dave Cash to call time out the just over three minutes to play in the half. Cotton hit a basket coming out of the time out to bump the lead back to nine at 31-22, but Cook and O’Brien would knock down jumpers to cut the loead to five at 31-26. Pomatto hit two baskets which were answered by baskets by Griffin and the teams went to the locker room with the Panthers holding a 35-28 lead.
The Panthers came out of the locker room and threatened to run away and hide from the Wildcats, as Hayes and Griffin traded baskets before Pomatto nailed a trey and a two pointer and the Panther lead was back to double digits at 42-30.
The teams continued to trade baskets, and after a Nick Wilson made the second of two free throws the Panther lead remained at twelve, 49-37. Ryan Dvorak hit two quick baskets to cut the lead to eight at 49-41, before David Embers closed the scoring for the third quarter with a basket to cut the Panther lead to eight again at 51-43.
The fourth quarter started with Erisman hitting four straight points on a basket and two free throws and the Panther lead was back to double digits at 56-43. Griffin, Drew Harding and Dvorak hit baskets sandwiched around a Hayes basket and two Erisman free throw and with just over five minutes to play in the game, the Panthers held an eleven point, 60-49 lead. Over then next two minutes the Panthers would see their lead shrink to seven points at 64-57 on the strength of two baskets and a free throw by Griffin, only to see it return to 10 points on a three pointer by Erisman.
The Panthers would see their lead wilt to five on two three pointers by Kershner sandwiched around a single free throw by Erisman. Hayes hit a basket and Erisman would hit two of four free throws and the Panther lead stood at four points as the game ended.
“We need to handle pressure better,” Said Panther Head Coach Dave Cash. “We played a good game early, but we should have buried that team.”
Cash told his team he was proud of them and the way they continued to give maximum effort.
“We need to relax and finish the game,” Cash said. “I know one thing, this feel a lot better than the last two games.”