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Panthers claw Bears for first win

You can chalk this one up to the old adage “You’re never as good as the score indicates, nor is your opponent.” Truer words have never been spoken, as all it took was two days and a different species of Bear to bring out the best in the Paola Panthers.

Less than 48 hours after being mauled by the Turner Bears, the Panthers pounced on a wounded East High School Bears squad who suited up just six players due to disciplinary reasons, and it didn’t take long for the Panthers to smell blood.

WLH0112 The Bears ran very little set offensive plays, and played even less defense, giving the Panthers free run of the floor, and Paola took advantage of the situation, ringing up an 83-38 score to post their first victory of the season and take seventh place in the Eudora Cardinal boys basketball tournament in Eudora on Thursday, December 10, 2009.

Although it was only an eight point lead for Paola at the end of the first quarter, this game was effectively over just about half way through the period, as the Panthers jumped to an 11-0 lead, keeping the Bears off the scoreboard for the better part of five minutes to open the game. The Bears outscored Paola 8-5 the rest of the way in the period, just about the only time East managed to out anything to the Panthers on the day.

The second period opened with Travis Hayes and Nick Wilson taking over for the Panthers, as the duo accounted for the Panthers first 17 points in the period, as they repeatedly worked the inside for easy baskets, more often than not being fouled and converting free throws. Hayes, who had been nearly invisible in the Panthers opening two losses, flashed some of the dominate form he showed last year, hitting 11 of the 17 points on five field goals and a free throw. Wilson, who, through the first two games had been the Panthers bright spot in the middle accounted for the remaining six, and when Conner Kresin hit a three pointer to become the first person not named Hayes or Wilson to score in the quarter, the Panthers had turned a 16-8 lead into 36-11 lead, and the game had officially turned into a rout. A basket by East ended the half, with the Panthers leading 36-13.

Hayes and Wilson came out of the locker room after the intermission and continued their dominate play inside, hitting the Panthers first six points out of the break to open a 42-13 lead. Following a Bear free throw, Brandon Goodman nailed a trey and the Panther lead had ballooned to 31 points at 45-14. The Bears did manage to again outscore the Panthers for the last few minutes of the third quarter, and on the strength of two straight three pointers to end the quarter, the Bears had put up 12 points to the Panthers six and the lead was sliced to 25 points at 51-26.

The fourth quarter really got ugly for the Bears, as foul troubles began to mount, and so did the Panthers point total as Paola put 32 points on the board in the final quarter, as the Panthers used 11 players in the game, and with the exception of Seth Kern, all 11 scored at least one point. It wasn’t as if Kern didn’t try, he had some open looks at the basket, but just couldn’t get a shot to fall. In all eight Panthers scored in the fourth quarter alone, lead by Justin Dunmars who hit two field goals and three free throws for seven of his 13 points on the night. Goodman hit six of his ten points on the evening in the final stanza, and Wilson added six of his 20 points in the final eight minutes. Hayes hit two free throws to finish up with 22 points on the night, and Joby Debrick and Anthony West each hit four points in the quarter. The final two points of the Panthers fourth quarter outburst were tallied by Connor Kresin. The Panthers 32 points in the quarter nearly matched the Bears output for the entire game.

WLH0161 “That was kind of a bad deal,” said Panthers Head Coach Dave Cash. “But the guys went out and did what they had to do,”

But, even with the obvious lack of focus by the East squad, Cash was pleased with his teams performance, and felt he saw improvement, even when the lopsided nature of the game was factored in.

“We played hard, but we can play better,” Cash said. “We have to learn to play with a sense of urgency, but not out of control. We did some things better today, and I’m proud of the team.”

The Panthers were paced by Hayes with 22 points and Wilson with 20, Dunmars added 13 and Kresin 10 to give Paola four players in double figures. The Panthers hit 28 field goals, two three pointers and were 21 of 27 from the free throw line for 78%.

Paola must now prepare for two monster games next week, as they will travel to Osawatomie on Tuesday night, December 15 to take on the Trojans and then they will finish their pre-holiday schedule by traveling to Gardner to take on Bubba Starling and the Trailblazers on Thursday, December 17.

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