Panthers continue Jekyll & Hyde play

The Jekyll and Hyde monster that is Paola Panther Boys Basketball team did another flip flop tonight (Tuesday, January 26, 2010), as the Panthers went back to their old habits enroute to a 49-46 loss at the hands of the Osage City Indians in the PHS gym.

Gone was the team that played hard and defeated Burlington three nights ago, and in its place was the team the sleep walked its way to two other defeats in the Burlington Tournament last week.

WLH0165 “We missed a ton of point blank shots tonight,” said Panthers Head Coach Dave Cash. “There’s only one explanation for that and it’s lack of focus.”

As a team, this group suffers for the basketball equivalent of ADHD, one minute they’re on, the next they’re off, and when they’re off, they are waaaay off. All you have to do is take a look at the first quarter to see.

The Panthers jumped to a 4-1 lead and stretched that lead to 11-4 with about three and a half minutes to play. The team was focused, made good passes, played decent defense and looked like they would have a chance to pick up their second victory in a row. But unfortunately for the Panthers, the game isn’t over with three and a half minutes to play in the first quarter.

From that point, until Travis Hayes hit a short shot, with five minutes to play in the second quarter, the Panthers got exactly nothing. In addition, the Indians, while not perfect, were able to go on a 10-0 run to grab a 14-11 advantage. The key to that sequence, which was over eight minutes was this, the Panthers didn’t hit a shot, and many times didn’t come close, and they weren’t all from downtown either, many were, as Cash said, point blank, right under the basket shots. The rest of the story was the fact that Osage City didn’t exactly light it up, scoring only 10 points in the same time period.

There’s a pattern developing, and for the Panthers, it’s not good. The Panthers scored four more points in the last five minutes of the half, to tally a whopping six points on the quarter, Osage City countered with eight, and held a 22-17 lead at the half. The other disturbing trend that’s developing with the Panthers is their inability to get to the free throw line. Paola shot exactly one free throw in the first half, which is better that the zero they shot against Rossville in Burlington, and that was for the game. It’s better, but not much, but more on that later.

The third quarter wasn’t much kinder to the Panthers, the did manage to slice one point off the lead, outscoring the Indians 10-9 to trail at the end of three quarters by a 37-21 count. Isaac Cotton hit two baskets in the quarter, as did Travis Hayes, and Nick Wilson, who returned to action after missing two games with an ankle injury added the last basket for the Panthers.

The Indians maintained their four point lead through much of the fourth period, even during a stretch when Wilson scored 11 straight points for the Panthers. Even with that offensive outburst, the Panthers basically traded point for point with Osage City, as he started his run with the Panthers trailing 34-29 and ended with the Paola within two points at 42-40, but the Indians hit four straight points to pull out to a 46-40 lead. Ironically Cotton became the first person not named Wilson to score, and he was the last person to score for Paola before Wilson’s run.

Hawkins pulled the Panthers back to within two at 46-44, but C.J. Marple hit two free throws to move the lead back to four before Justin Dunmars hit a jumper to cut it back to two with plenty of time remaining on the clock. Marple hit the second of two free throws to give the Indians a three point lead, but the Panthers were unable to tie the score, even though they got two good looks at the basket in the final seconds.

“We all know it’s going to be tough for us, even when we’re focused and ready to play,” Cash said. “But, Osage City played well and took advantage of what we were willing to give them.”

And the Panthers were in a generous mood, giving the Indians just about anything they wanted to do in the paint. Osage City’s Landon Heward was huge in taking advantage of the lax paint defense of the Panthers, hitting for 18 points on eight baskets and two free throws. Heward never had to take a shot of more than two or three feet, and must have shot in the 70% to 80% range on the night.

Free throws again cost the Panthers, remember the one free throw in the first half? Well, the Panthers shot a whopping two in the second half as the Indians committed only nine total fouls in the game. The Panthers on the other hand committed 20 fouls and put the Indians on the line 19 times. Osage City didn’t exactly light it up from the charity stripe, but they did hit 10 free throws, more than enough to seal the final three point margin.

That makes two of the last four games where the Panthers have shot zero and three free throw, and it doesn’t take a genius to see, Paola is just not skilled enough to take the ball out of the half court set, put it on the floor, create space and take the ball to the basket. When the do get the ball on the low blocks, they are not strong enough to take the ball up strong and draw fouls, more often than not, the ball is slapped from the shooter hands before it ever gets above the waist, leaving the players grip so easily the officials have no reason to call a foul.

Finally, the Panthers just don’t rebound very well, and when they do hit the offensive glass, they are unable to make the stick backs, now that helps build offensive rebounding stats, but it doesn’t exactly help the point totals, and that’s where the game is won and lost. The Panthers again allowed an offensive rebound off a missed free throw by the Indians, this time it happened late in the game and it was costly. Osage City’s Jordan Tice was fouled by Hawkins with the score standing at 44-40 and under two minutes to play. Tice missed the front end of the one and one, and Heward flew around the Panthers to grab the rebound and hit the basket which gave the Indians a 46-40 lead. Those two points were huge as the time ran down in the game.

The most frustrating thing for the rabid fan, and the Panther coaching staff is that many times the Panthers look like they are playing hard, with intensity and effort. But many times, little errors, many of which are controllable, ruin what would have been a good play. Too many times the Panthers would play good defense, jump into the passing lane, get the steal and then throw the ball away. Or, they would break the Indian press only to come down court at 900 miles an hour and not finish a layup, make a poor decision on a pass, or worse yet, fire up a three pointer with no rebounding help anywhere near the basket.

Wilson lead the Panthers in scoring in his return to action, hitting 16 points on seven field goals and two of three from the foul line. He was the only Panthers player to shoot a free throw on the night. Hayes and Cotton added 12 points each for Paola.

The Panthers will roll the dice again Friday, and see what turns up as they continue the season at home against Eudora in the annual Winter Homecoming game.