Panther rally falls short at Osawatomie

As the old saying goes, “it’s too bad somebody had to lose the game.” But, unfortunately they do, and this time it was the Paola Panthers turn to come out on the short end on the scoreboard, as the Panthers fell to the Osawatomie Trojans by a 53-51 score in Osawatomie, Tuesday, December 15, 2009.

The Panthers had clawed their way back into the game with a tenacious defensive effort in the second half, erasing a 14 point Trojan lead early in the second half, and then staying just close enough to gain a 51-51 tie with under 40 seconds to play in the game, only to see Seth Jones hit a jumper from around the free throw lane that bounded high into the air and then through the net with just eight seconds to play in the game to give the Trojans a 53-51 lead. It was only the second basket for Jones in the entire second half.

WLH0563 “This loss should hurt,” Panthers Head Coach Dave Cash told his team in a somber Panther locker room. “I’ll tell you this, if we had battled the last two weeks the way we did the last two quarters, we might not have lost those other two games.”

The Panthers did get off the last shot, but more on that later. Early in the third quarter this game looked, for all practical purposes like a run away, blow out victory for the Trojans. After opening a 14-9 first quarter lead, and expanding the margin to eight points at half time, the Trojans hit six quick points to open the second half to push their lead to 14 points at 35-21 with just under five and a half minutes to play in the period.

Ironically, it was Jones that started that six point run, with his only other basket of the half, which pushed the Trojan lead to 10 points at 31-21. Tyler Wright added two more baskets to open the lead to 14 points, but it was at this point the game really started to get interesting.

It started innocently enough, following a Panther time out, with a Nick Wilson field goal that cut the Trojan lead to 12 at 35-23. Wilson missed two free throws and Travis Hayes hit a short jumper to pull to within 10 at 35-25. Conner Kresin hit a three pointer and all of a sudden the lead was in single digits again at seven, 35-28. Justin Dunmars hit a short shot and Kresin hit the one of two free throws and the Panthers were right on the Trojans tail, down by only four points 35-31. When Kresin missed the second of his two free throws, Wilson fought for the rebound and scored to pull Paola to within two at 35-33. When Brandon Goodman was fouled while trying to make a lay-up off a Trojan turn over, the Panthers had the opportunity to get all the way back, and tie the score. Goodman was good with his charity tosses and with just over one minute to play in the third quarter, the game was tied, the Trojans had gone four and a half minutes without scoring and Trojans Head Coach Darren Soucie was forced to call a time out.

The time out helped a bit, as the Trojans were able to regain the lead on two of four free throw attempts by Soucie and Wright and as the quarter ended, the Panthers had clawed their way back into the game on the strength of good perimeter defense and solid post offense, trailing on 37-35 with eight minutes to play.

The fourth quarter was a nip and tuck battle, with the Trojans pulling out to a two or three point lead, only to see the Panthers battle back to within one, but never getting the game tied again, or ever taking the lead away from the Trojans. Finally, with under a minute to play in the game, Wilson was able to pull the Panthers into a tie, it was only the second tie of the game after 0-0 and the Panthers never lead through the entire game. Of course, the Wilson basket to tie the score set up the Jones heroics to win the game.

But, as we promised, the game was not over when Jones’ shot finally fell through the net, as the Panthers still had six seconds to try and regain a tie with a basket or take a “tear your guts out” victory with a long three pointer.

The Panthers got the right guys to touch the ball coming out of the time out, as Travis Hayes launched a long three pointer at the three second mark, the shot missed, but the ball found its way to Anthony West, who touch passed it to Wilson under the basket. Wilson went, and made the shot, but the officials were quick to waive off the basket, as time had expired as Wilson was leaving the ground to lay the ball in the basket.

“Nick Wilson finally played 6’6”, he took over and really called for the ball,” Cash said. “The rest of the team played with the kind of purpose we’ve been talking about.”

The road will not get any easier for the Panthers, as they will go on the road for one more game before the holiday break, traveling to Gardner to take on the Trailblazers on Thursday night.

“We’re going to keep going, we’re going to work hard, and have fun,” Cash said. “We played a good basketball team tonight, and these games will make us better when it comes time to play in the sub-state tournament.”