Panthers play Cyclones tough in loss

Sometimes a game just last too long, many times you might hear the expression “if we just would have had two more seconds, or two more minutes, or one more shot with the ball.” Well for the Paola Panther Boys basketball team it didn’t boil down to a last second shot like last month at Osawatomie, no, the Panthers turned in arguably their best half of the season, against a very talented Ottawa Cyclone team on Tuesday night, January 12, 2010 at the PHS Gym.

The good news for the Panthers was they played an outstanding first half of basketball, and even won the first quarter, outscoring Ottawa 13-11, but the bad news came in the fact that they make you play both halves of the game, and in the second half the Panthers just couldn’t match the athleticism of the Cyclones as the visitors pulled away to a 59-40 victory.

WLH0437 The Panthers stood toe to toe with the Cyclones, who return much of the team that advanced to the state tournament last year, as they came out a matched the intensity and energy of one of the top ranked teams in the Kansas City area and the state of Kansas.

“You were in the game in the first half because you came out and played with a tremendous amount of energy against a very good team.” said Panthers Head Coach Dave Cash. “The first two or three minutes of the second half set the tone, it just zapped the energy out of you. We have to learn to play four quarters with the same energy as we played the first half.”

Indeed, it was the Panthers who looked for all the world like they were going to go the distance against the Cyclones, much like they did last year when they upset top ranked Girard in Paola. Isaac Cotton, Skylar Hawkins and Nick Wilson all knocked down jumpers in the opening minutes to forge a 6-6 tie, and then after a Cyclone basket, Travis Hayes it back to back jumpers to give the Panthers their first lead of the game at 10-8. Nick Wilson capped the 7-2 run for Paola with a three pointer to give Paola their biggest lead of the game at 13-10.

A free throw by Devin Martin cut the Panther lead to two at the end of the first quarter at 13-11, the free throw was significant in that it came on the second foul whistled on Hayes as the quarter drew to a close.

Hawkins and Hayes ignited the Panthers and the crowd to start the second half, as they combined for a basket and a three pointer to push the Panther lead to seven at 18-11, and one had to wonder if it would indeed be a magical night. But the dream started to turn to a nightmare a short time later, as Hayes picked up this third foul and had to take a spot on the bench. He would not return to the game in the first half, and the Panther lead took a seat with him.

The Cyclones immediately went to work on the Panthers and by the time Justin Dunmars hit a layup, Ottawa was enjoying a 12-2 run and had turned the seven point deficit to a three point lead at 23-20. Ottawa closed the first half on a 7-3 run to completely reverse the seven point lead as they went to the locker room with a 30-23 lead. From the the point where Hayes hit his three pointer, the Cyclones outscored the Panthers 19-5, and had, in effect sealed the victory.

The Panthers had little left in the tank as the second half got underway, Hayes and Ottawa’s Semi Ojeleye traded baskets to open the quarter, but then the Cyclones went on a 6-0 run that was capped by a monster two handed dunk off an alley-oop pass which stretched the Cyclone lead to double digits at 38-25. Hayes stopped the Cyclone run on a steal and layup, but the Panthers could only trim two points off the deficit to head to the final eight minutes trailing by 11 at 46-35.

“You’ve got to understand, Ottawa has played and beaten some quality teams so far this year,” Cash said. “There isn’t another team on the rest of our schedule any more talented than them.”

The Cyclones continued to pull away from the Panthers in the final eight minutes, as Paola was outscored 13-5 in the final period to make the final score 59-40.

“We have to continue to work hard and get better,” Cash said. “We have to learn how to play four quarters and win these kind of ball games.”

Hayes was the only Panther able to hit for double figures, as he lead Paola with 16 points. The Cyclones were paced by Kevin Barber with 14 points, followed by Corbin Goedert with 13 points and Ojeleye with 12.

The Panthers return to the hardwoods on Friday night, January 15, 2010 as they travel to Baldwin to take on the Bulldogs before taking part in the annual Burlington Invitational Tournament next week.