Perfect start to new year

The Paola Panther Girls Basketball team rolled to their sixth straight win to open the season, keeping their unbeaten record intact by dispatching the Girard Trojans 60-46 in action Tuesday, January 6, 2009 at the PHS Gym.

The Trojans did not go quietly into the dark night though, as they fought back from a 10 point first quarter deficit to trail by only one at the half.

“The second half, and the third quarter especially, you got aggressive,” said Panther Head Coach Stuart Ross.

The Panthers looked to blow the game open, running out to an 18-8 lead after the first quarter. Taylor Smith, Rachel Hanf, Rachel Schmidt, Megan Hayes and Taelor Karr lead the way, as the Panthers rushed out to a 10 point advantage.

The Trojans were not about to bow to the pressure though, as the visitors proceeded to go on a 15-2 run, opening a 23-20 lead on the Panthers, before Ross called a time out with four minutes to play in the half.

Schmidt stopped the run coming out of the time out to cut the lead back to one at 23-22. Carly Twarog hit two free throws for the Trojans to move the lead back to three at 25-22, before Hanf hit a basket to shave the lead back to one at 25-24.

A Hanf steal and missed basket and a Karr miss off the rebound cost the Panthers a chance to re-take the lead, but a free throw by Karr tied the score at 25 with less than a minute to play in the half. Twarog hit a basket to give Girard a 27-25 lead, but Taylor Smith knocked down a three pointer at the buzzer to give the lead back to Paola at the half at 28-27.

“They made a real effort to make us play a half court game in the first half,” Ross said. “They did not anticipate the way we came out in the second half.”

Indeed, the Panthers came out with a vengeance to start the second half. Hanf knocked down two baskets, Smith, Hayes and Ashlee Johnson each hit a basket to bump the lead to 11 before Girard called a time out.

Morgan Boore stopped the run by the Panthers with two free throws coming out of the time-out, but Johnson answered with two quick buckets and the Panthers lead stood at 13 at 42-29.

The teams traded baskets thought the rest of the quarter, and the Panthers lead was 45-34 at the end of the period.

The Trojans were able to cut the lead to single digits at 45-36 on a Twarog basket to open the fourth quarter, But the Panthers would stretch the lead to 16 on two free throws by Allison Wood, at 56-40. The Panthers cruised the rest of the way, taking a 60-46 victory.

“That was a two time, defending league champion, and there’s a good chance they could be a three time champion,” said Ross. “They don’t want to come back here.”

Ross told his players to relish this 6-0 start his Panthers are on.

“Let’s go take care of business at DeSoto,” Ross continued. “7-0 going into the Burlington tournament will be a #1 seed, or at least a coin flip for one.”

The Panthers travel to DeSoto on Friday, before traveling to Ottawa and hosting Baldwin next week.

Panthers keep record clean with Girard win