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Playin' in high Cotton!

Isaac Cotton hits 21 as Panthers pick-up opening win

by Bill Hauldren

The Paola Panther Boys Basketball Team rode a strong performance from sophomores Issac Cotton and Skylar Hawkins to an opening game 59-46 victory in the first round of the Panther Invitational Basketball Tournament against the Turner Golden Bears on Monday, December 8, 2008 at the PHS Gym.

Hawkins did a workmanlike job at the point and Cotton played much bigger than his six-foot frame repeatedly taking the ball inside against a much bigger Turner team to score several easy buckets.

“That was a great effort,” Panther Head Coach Dave Cash told his team in the locker room shortly after the victory. “You played your rears off, the effort was there, but we have to play smarter.”

Cash and the rest of the Panther coaching staff were disappointed in the way the team finished the game, letting a solid effort for three quarters turn into a ragged finish. The Panthers were never in danger of losing the lead, but Paola did let Turner cut a 20 point lead down to the final margin of 13 points.

Indeed, the Panthers clawed their way to a 49-29 advantage at the 5:01 mark in the fourth quarter on a basket by Cotton. From there, the Golden Bears were able to cut into the lead, but were never able to get closer than 12 points down the stretch.

“We just didn’t finish, the last four minutes of the game were not good,” said Cash. “We have to make up for our lack of size and talent by playing the game the way it is meant to be played, the last four minutes of the game we didn’t do that.”

The Panthers jumped out quickly on the Golden Bears, Hawkins opened the scoring with a short jumper, Cotton made one of two free throws and Hawkins scored off a steal and the Panthers were up 5-0. Tuner made two baskets to cut the lead to 5-4 and then the Panthers went on a 10-0 run to stretch the lead to 15-4.

Turner managed to cut the lead to five points early in the second quarter at 15-10, but solid play from the Panthers allowed Paola to re-establish the lead to a comfortable 27-18 a the half.

The Panthers came out of the break strong, hitting two quick baskets to up the lead to double digits at 29-18 on a basket by Jonathan Pomatto.

The teams traded baskets through the rest of the quarter, including three consecutive buckets by Cotton to answer Turner two pointers to keep the lead in double digits. The third quarter ended with the Panthers holding a 39-27 lead.

Pomatto got the Panthers off to a strong start in the fourth period with two quick baskets, the second coming off a steal and lay-up to move the lead to 43-27 and forcing a Turner time-out with 7:08 remaining in the game.

Brandon Erisman hit two free throws following a Turner foul and Pomatto hit a basket before Cotton scored an inside bucket to make the lead 20 points with just over five minutes to play in the game at 49-29.

A sloppy five minutes later the Panthers had their first victory of the season, and earned the right to play Harmon in the second round of the tournament. The game will be played tonight, December 9, at 8:30 in the PHS Gym.

“We have to communicate better, no matter who’s in the game,” Cash said. “I’m proud of you, I’m proud of your effort, but tomorrow’s another day!”



Paola vs Turner

Harmon vs Tonganoxie

Piper vs Wellsville

Bishop Ward vs Eudora