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Battle, Scratch & Claw!

Panthers battle Ottawa to wire, drop 57-54 decision

WLH0180 The Paola Panther Boys continued to battle, scratch and claw, but came up on the short end of a 57-54 homecoming loss at the hands of the Ottawa Cyclones on Friday night, February 6, 2009. The Cyclones hit the Panthers with every punch they could land by their big men, and the Panthers would not go away, erasing a six point first quarter lead and a seven point half time advantage to get the game tied several times in the second half and trail by only one with seconds to play in the game.

“I guarantee you one thing,” Panthers Head Coach Dave Cash told his team after the game. “The people that saw you play tonight are saying ‘they play hard, they’ll scrach and claw and they’ll be in it at the end.’”

In it they were, as the Panthers took another opponent down to the wire, but the game didn’t start that way for the Panthers, as the Ottawa post players killed Paola inside, jumping to a 20-14 lead on the strength of eight points by Chase Dengel, and six points by Jake Moore and four points by James Peoples and two by Kevin Barber all of which came from within ten feet of the basket.

The Panthers held tough though, taking a 7-6 lead on the strength of a Jonathan Pomatto three point basket after the Cyclones had opened a 6-3 lead. Adam Henn and Michael Bryson kept the Panthers within one at 12-11. Brandon Erisman and Dengle traded baskets to keep the Cyclone lead at 13-12, before the Cyclones finished the half on a 6-1 run to open the six point, 20-14 lead.

The Cyclones bumped the lead to 11 at 25-14 on the strength of a basket Peoples and a three pointer by Adam Hasty. The Panthers answered the Cyclone run by going on a 10-2 run of their own to cut the Ottawa lead to three at 27-24 after Brandon Erisman hit a three pointer. The Cyclones stretched the lead to seven at 31-24 on a basket by Shane Steelman and two free throws by Dengel.

The Panthers wasted little time climbing back into the game after halftime, as the Cyclones bumped the lead to nine on a bucket by Dengle coming out of the break, but the Panthers responded with a 9-0 run and when Isaac Cotton hit a bucket under the basket with just under five minutes to play in the period, the Panthers and climbed all the way back to a 33-33 tie.

The Cyclones responded with an 9-0 run of their own to open a 42-33 lead with 2:36 to play in the quarter. Brint Hastert, Erisman and Pomatto scored for Paola and the teams reached the fourth quarter with the Cyclone lead being trimmed to three at 42-39.

WLH0153 The Panthers trimmed the lead to one to open the fourth quarter as Bryson hit a basket before Moore and Hasty hit three of four free throws and Moore added a bucket to open up a six point margin at 47-41. The Panthers cut the lead back to two on a basket by Erisman, and a three pointer and a free throw by Hastert. Henn and Peoples traded points and the lead remained at two at 51-49. The Cyclones ran the lead back to four on free throws by Hasty and Moore before Erisman cut the lead to two with just under a minute to play in the game at 54-52.

The Panthers had their chances in the final minute, as Pomatto was fouled on a layup attempt off a steal in the front court, but was unable to convert the free throws with the Panthers trailing 54-52. Hasty opened a three point advantage for Ottawa with under 30 seconds to play in the game, before Cotton cut the lead to one with a two pointer with just under 10 seconds to play. The Panthers were out of time outs when Cotton hit the shot and before they could foul Peoples to stop the clock there was only 1.7 seconds to play in the game. Peoples calmly stepped up and knocked down the free throws to give the Cyclones a three point advantage again. A last ditch, half-court shot by Pomatto bounced off the backboard as time expired and Ottawa escaped with a 57-54 victory.

“We have to play smarter,” said Cash. “We have to know the time and score, and we were caught at the end with no time-outs.”

Cash told his team to keep their heads up, and come back ready to continue to play hard and battle.

“We have three weeks left in the season,” Cash said. “We’ve got to scratch and claw, nothing’s going to be easy, and it’ll start Tuesday with Nevada. So we need to come in Monday ready to work hard.”

The Panthers will return to game action on Tuesday, February 10 with a home game against Nevada before traveling to Spring Hill to take on the Broncos on Friday night.