Two down one to go!

Panthers overcome physical play to advance

The Paola Panther Girls Basketball team took their second step on the way to a Eudora Cardinal Invitational Basketball Tournament championship Tuesday night, as they downed the Piper Pirates 55-45 at Eudora. The Panthers fought not only the Pirates, but Mother Nature, as the team had to travel to Eudora in the middle of the first snow storm of the season. But, the Panthers didn’t let a little snow storm stop them from running their season record to 2-0 and earning themselves a spot in the championship game against host Eudora on Thursday night.

Whatever caused the Panthers opening game slow start, was erased by last night, as Paola jumped to a 20-7 first quarter lead. Once again senior Rachel Hanf led the way, hitting seven points in the period on three field goals and a free throw. Courtney Clouse and Taelor Karr each added four points in the period.

“It was nice to see us respond to our slow start on Monday night,” said Panther Head Coach Stuart Ross. “Tuesday we came out ready and really gave them a punch in the gut in the first quarter.”

Hanf and Karr continued their strong play in the second quarter, as both seniors hit a field goal and a three point shot, on the way to a 12 point second quarter that saw the Panther lead grow to 32-13.

“Different than Monday, though, was sustaining the punches,” Ross said. “Of course, Piper is a really good team and we knew they weren’t going to lay down and take it.”

Ross was right, the Pirates were not going to let the Panthers just run roughshod over them for the entire game. Trailing by nearly 20 points at half time, Piper came out and took it to the Panthers in the third period. Led by the three point shooting of J.C. Carroll, Piper outscored the Panthers 14-6 following the break to cut the lead to eleven at 38-27. Defensively, the Pirates were able to hold Hanf and Karr to only two points in the period.

Part of the problem for the Panthers could have been the physical style of play the Pirates began to employ after Paola jumped out to the big first period lead.

“One area of concern from Tuesday was how we responded to the physical game that Piper started playing after the first quarter,” said Ross. “It wasn’t as if we backed down from them; the problem was we let the physical game take us out of what we do as a team.”

While Ross was pleased with the way his Panthers stood up the the physical play of the Pirates, he was concerned about the mental aspect of playing against a team that isn’t afraid to play a physical style.

“We fell prey to playing a fundamentally lacking, physical game, instead of maintaining our defensive and offensive principals,” Ross said. “In the future we have to maintain our team poise and make that style of play a liability for teams instead of letting it get under our skin.”

The Panthers settled down in the fourth quarter, with Karr leading the way with eight points after being held scoreless in the third period, and Hanf adding four points, the Panthers scored point for point with the Pirates, with the final margin remaining at 10 points, 55-45.

Ross was pleased with the way his team finished, after being taken out of their comfort zone in the second and third periods, settling down to play with the Pirates, even though Eudora shot 15 free throws in the final period in route to outscoring the Panthers 18-17 in the period.

“However, we finished when it all came down to it,” “It’s nice to get a game like that early in the year. It gives more real-game experience for future contests.”

The future is now for the Panthers, as they will return to action Thursday evening at 8:30 in the Championship game of the tournament, facing the host Eudora Cardinals.