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Comeback Kids!

Panthers erase 15 point halftime lead to down Oz

If someone would have taken a straw poll of the sparse crowd on hand at the game at the half, the results would have put the Panthers chances of mounting a comeback somewhere between slim and none. But, interestingly enough, not many people left the gym, preferring to stay and watch the second half. Little did they know they would be treated to one of the best halves of basketball they would see in a while, and certainly one of the best comebacks by a Panther team over its in-county rival.

Travis Hayes, who picked up his third foul late in the first half, came up big in the third quarter, jumping out after the break to hit two baskets on either side of a Soucie basket to cut the lead to 13 at 25-12. Skylar Hawkins hit a short jumper to cut the lead to 11 before Jones hit for the Trojans to move the lead back to 13 at 27-14.

Then, the Panthers heart and determination began to pay dividends. The pressing defense began to take it’s toll on the Trojans and the turnover battle that the Panthers found themselves on the short side of in the first half began to swing the other direction.

Adam Henn hit a bucket to cut the lead back to 11, Hayes got the Panthers within 10 at 27-17 with a free throw, then Henn hit a basket to get the Trojan advantage to single digits at 27-19. Hayes followed the Henn bucket with one of his own and Erisman followed with two straight baskets and the Panthers had climbed almost all the way back sitting at a two point deficit at 27-25. Marsh bumped the Trojan lead back to four just before the end of the third quarter, but when the smoke had cleared the Panthers had outscored Osawatomie 17-6 in the period and were back in the ballgame.

Hawkins opened the final period with a nice steal, but was unable to convert, and Jones hit for the Trojans to open up a six point lead at 31-25. Nick Wilson hit for Paola and Soucie hit for the Trojans to keep the lead at six at 33-27.

Soucie picked up his fourth foul shortly thereafter and Adam Henn missed a three pointer for the Panthers. Bryson hit a big bucket to cut the lead back to four at 33-29 and then Jonathan Pomatto got a basket and a foul, converting the old fashioned three pointer and the Panthers were within one at 33-32. It was as close as Paola had been in the game since 4-3 early in the first quarter.

Bryson had a chance to give the Panthers their first lead of the game, but was able to convert only one of two free throws, but with 4:13 to play in the game the Panthers had the game tied at 33.

Tyler Wright hit a bucket for the Trojans to move the lead back to two, but Hawkins came up with a steal, and was fouled on the ensuing shot attempt. He converted one of two from the line, and the Panthers had several chances from point blank range on the rebound to score again, but couldn’t get ball to fall.

Hayes picked up his fourth foul with 3:25 to play in the game, but the Trojans missed the free throw. Bryson hit a lay-up of a nice assist by Henn at the 2:56 mark in the game to give Paola its first lead at 36-35.

Travis Marsh hit a big three pointer for the Trojans to give Osawatomie a 38-36 lead, but picked up his fourth foul a short time later and Pomatto tied the game for the Panthers by hitting both ends of a one and one. Blurton got the Trojans back on top with a bucket, but Hawkins hit a huge three pointer to give Paola a one point advantage at 41-40. Hayes hit two free throws at the 48 second mark in the game to give Paola a three point lead, only to see Blurton tie the game with seconds remaining on a three pointer. The clock ran out on regulation time with the teams tied at 43-43.

The Panthers never trailed in the overtime. Pomatto hit a bucket to give Paola a 45-43 lead and Henn hit two free throws to move the lead to four at 47-43. Jones hit for the Trojans and Hayes for the Panthers and the lead was still four at 49-45. Blurton hit two free throws to cut the lead to two before Bryson hit two of charity tosses of his own to give the Panthers a 51-47 lead.

Soucie hit a basket to cut the lead to two at 51-49, and Soucie and Pomatto each hit one of two free throws to make the final score 52-50.

The Panthers nearly cost themselves in the finals seconds of the overtime though, as they could only convert one of six free throws. Making free throws down the stretch will be big in future games.

“You had a chance to ride it out in the second half,” Cash told his team. “But you didn’t, you kept playing hard, kept working, you need to go out and compete in every game the way you did in the second half. If you do that, good things will happen.”

The Panthers return to action tonight at home against Gardner, before taking a couple of weeks off for the Christmas Holidays.

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It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. No, this was not Charles Dickens, “Tale of Two Cities”, rather it was the Paola Panther Boys Basketball team against rival Osawatomie, and a “Tale of Two Halves.”

The Panthers saw just about everything go the wrong way during an opening half of play that saw their guests from the Osawatomie run and gun themselves to a 15 point lead at the intermission, only to witness an inspired comeback by Paola in the second half, before taking a memorable 52-50 overtime victory.

“The second half tonight is the way we need to play,” Head Coach Dave Cash told his players after the game. “There’s just a few teams that have come back like that, it takes heart and teammates, I’m very, very proud of your effort.”

Indeed, even though the Panthers came out as cold as the icy December night, very few could question their heart. While playing hard, getting the ball in the basked proved a fruitless proposition for Paola in the opening half.

The Trojans opened the game with a 4-0 run, and the Panthers didn’t score a point for several minutes of the first quarter. Brandon Erisman got the Panthers on the board with a free throw and then go Paola within one at 4-3 with a basket a couple of possessions later. But back to back three point baskets by the Trojans’ Josh Blurton and Dylon Needham pushed the Osawatomie lead to seven at the end of the first quarter at 10-3.

The second quarter didn’t start that great for Paola either, as Seth Jones hit a third straight trey and the Trojan lead ballooned to 10 at 13-3.

Michael Bryson and Adam Henn tried to keep the Panthers within striking distance, by sandwiching a two pointer and a three point basket around a bucket by Trojan Travis Marsh to make the score 15-8. But the Henn three pointer would be the last time the Panthers found the basket the remainder of the half, while Marsh would hit another basket and two free throws, and Jones and Brendan Soucie added baskets to give the Trojans a 23-8 halftime margin.

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