Taming the Wildcats

No dramatic endings this time as 'Cats fall 52-38

WLH0041 This time there was no drama, no comebacks, no last second shots, no overtimes, no, this time, although it wasn’t exactly a thing of beauty, and it was far from perfect, this time the Paola Panther Girls Basketball team dispatched of their in county rival the Louisburg Wildcats in comfortable fashion 52-38 in semi-final action at the Kansas Class 4-A sub-state tournament at Ottawa Friday night.

Exactly two week ago these two teams hooked up in a double overtime marathon that saw the Panthers preserve their then unbeaten record and send the Wildcats to the locker room with tears in their eyes wondering what might have been, but knowing that if the games broke right they would have a second chance at the Panthers in the sub-state.

Both teams did their part in getting to the game, but there would be no late game magic for the Wildcats tonight, as the Panthers, after trailing 2-0 and 5-2 would grab the lead midway through the first quarter and slowly extend and build the lead to double digits where it remained though most of the game.

The Panthers might have taken a little extra motivation from the Louisburg student section, as the Panther warmed up for the game directly in front of the Wildcat faithful who taunted the Panther players mercilessly, especially K-State bound senior Taelor Karr. The Panther point guard took the ribbing in stride, and seemed to feed off the opposition crowd, as she lead the Panthers in scoring with 19 point on the evening.

One thing the Wildcats were able to do was to take Emporia State bound senior Rachel Hanf out of the game, as the Panther forward was harassed much of the evening, hitting only 11 points with just one three point basket. Also held in check was Ashlee Johnson who managed only two points in the contest. But, Rachel Schmidt stepped up and hit several important baskets, scoring eight points in the game.

“We haven’t dodged anything, or anybody all year long,” Panther Head Coach Stuart Ross told his team after the game. “The good thing is, we’ve already been here, this is going to be just like the state tournament, we’ll have to go on back to back nights.”

The Panthers fell behind early, but only for a short time, as the Wildcats broke on top on a basket by Abbey Frazier, and a three pointer by Laurissa Beckman to take a 5-2 lead, but the Panthers answered with a 6-0 run on baskets by Taylor Smith, Megan Hayes and Karr to take an 8-5 lead. Frazier and Taylor Brown hit baskets around another Karr field goal and the Panther lead stood at 10-9 late in the quarter. The Panthers ran off seven unanswered points on buckets by Johnson and Kayla Offutt and a three pointer from Hanf and the Paola lead had grown to eight at 17-9. Kaetlynn O’Hara hit a basket to close the quarter, but the Wildcats trailed 17-11.

Karr opened the second quarter with a three point play on a nice driving lay-up to open a 20-11 lead, and after Frazier hit a bucket, the Panthers again went on a 7-0 run to double the Louisburg score at 26-13. Frazier hit two baskets to cut the Panther lead to 26-17, and Karr and Offutt each hit the front end of one and one situations to bump the lead back to double digits at the half 28-17.

The Wildcats tried to come out with more energy after the intermission, as Lindsay Stacks hit one of two free throws and Frazier hit another bucket in the middle, but Karr and Hanf answered for the Panthers and the score was 32-20. Jordan Shearer hit a three pointer for the ‘Cats and Frazier hit two more of her game hight 20 points around another basket by Karr and the Panther lead was sliced to single digits. Hanf hit a jumper coming out of a Wildcat time-out to make the score 36-25, before Frazier hit another close in bucket and Stacks hit a three pointer to pull the Wildcats within six at 36-30, it would be as close at the ‘Cats would come in the remainder of the game.

The Panthers ran off six unanswered points on two baskets by Karr and a short jumper from Schmidt and the lead was back to a more comfortable 12 points at 42-30. Frazier closed out the quarter with another of her patented left handed baby hooks from the lane and the after three quarters of play, the Panthers still held a ten point lead at 42-32.WLH0072

Rachel Schmidt and O’Hara traded buckets for free throws to open the final eight minutes, as Schmidt hit two short jumpers and O’Hara four free throws and the Panther lead stood at ten still at 46-36. Hayes and Frazier traded baskets, with the lead staying at 10 points at 48-38, Frazier’s 19th and 20th points of the evening would be the last points the Wildcats would score, as the Panthers did a good job of running out the clock. Hayes and Taylor Smith hit four straight free throws to give the Panthers their final 14 point margin of victory.

“You guys stayed with the game plan,” Ross said. “We didn’t execute it perfectly, but we never do, even the professionals don’t execute perfectly, but you stayed with it and did what you had to do to win.”

The Panthers will be very familiar with their opponent in the sub-state championship game, as the Ottawa Cyclones held off the Fort Scott Tigers in the other semi-final game. The Panthers and Cyclones have already played twice this season, with the Panthers taking both games. In January, the Panthers took a narrow 52-49 victory over the Cyclones in Ottawa, and grabbed a 10 point 75-65 victory on Homecoming night in Paola. In the second game, the Panthers enjoyed one of the finest shooting nights of the season, hitting their first seven shots from behind the three point arc in opening a 20 point lead, en route to the victory.

It is very difficult to beat the same team three times on the season, a fact that was not lost by Ross.

“I’ve told you already, there will be no easy games from here on out,” he said. “Rest up tonight, feel lucky to be where you are, that was a valiant effort, you won the game on defense.

The Panthers and Cyclones tip off at 6:00 p.m. in the championship game, which will be followed by the Osawtomie Trojan boys taking on the Ottawa Cyclone boys in the championship game of their sub-state tournament following the girls game at approximately 7:30 p.m.