Sweeeet Sixteen!

Panthers cruise to 16th win, dominate Nevada 73-38

WLH0141 The Paola Panther Girls Basketball team turned in its sixteenth consecutive victory Tuesday night, February 10, 2009 as they completely dismantled the Nevada, Missouri High School Tigers on the Paola High hardwoods 73-38. The Panthers resembled a finely tuned sports car for much of the evening, scoring at will at times, opening a 19 point margin at the end of one period of play and never looking back.

The senior duo of Rachel Hanf and Taelor Karr once again paced the Panthers, but the supporting cast was true and strong as Panthers Coach Stuart Ross played twelve deep, with every player making a contribution is some form. Sophomore Ashlee Johnson also scored in double figures for the Panthers, and the rest of the starters and bench players saw significant minutes.

The Tigers actually held a brief 2-0 lead on a basket by Jessica Harper to open the game, but Karr, Hanf and Johnson combined for a 7-0 run and the Panthers were in the lead for good at 7-2. Taylor Means hit a basket for the Tigers and the lead was cut to 7-4, but the Panthers went on a 21-5 run to the end of the quarter and after one period of play Paola had effectively ended the game, leading 28-9.

Hanf hit twelve of her points in the first quarter, with Karr adding eight, Johnson and Courtney Clouse three each and Rachel Schmidt chipping in the other two points in the quarter.

“We’ve had a lot of tough games, this one gave us a chance to just go and play,” said Ross. “I was concerned that we might come out flat, we shot so well against Ottawa, I wasn’t sure we could keep that up.”

The Panthers dispelled concerns Ross might have held in the game as they bombed the Tigers at a 60% clip from the field.

Neither team scored a lot during the second half, as the Panthers rode a 13-10 advantage to a 21 point 40-19 halftime lead. Hanf continued to blitz the Tigers, hitting five points, Karr added three and Johnson and Kayla Offutt each added two points for the Panthers. Offutt’s basket came off a sweet, wrap around bounce pass from Megan Hayes, which put the Panthers up 34-11 and prompted a Nevada time out with four and a half minutes to play in the half. The Panthers opened their biggest lead of the half at 26 points a short time later as Hanf hit a driving bucket and a free throw to give Paola a 40-14 advantage.

WLH0041 The third quarter has been good to Paola all year long, except for last Friday’s game against Ottawa, when the Panthers allowed the Cyclones to climb back into a game that started out much like this one. Well, tonight, the Panthers would not be denied, as Paola opened with a 15-2 run to open the second half to open a 55-21 lead with four minutes to play in the period. Hayes had four points in the run, Kylee Mader also had four, Hanf had three and Karr and Johnson each had two during the run.

The Tigers made a run of their own, outscoring Paola 10-4 to the end of the quarter on the strength of two Olivia Culbertson three pointers. Karr hit two baskets during the run for the Panthers.

“We played with a lot of different combinations of players during the second half,” Ross said. “We know that somewhere down the line in the rest of the season we’ll have to play with a strange combination or two.”

The Panthers scoring machine kept humming in the fourth quarter, as Johnson hit three baskets, Offutt added two, and Clouse and Hanf each hit one. The final Panther basket by Kayla Offutt with two minutes to play in the game gave the Panthers their biggest margin of the game at 39 points, 73-34. The Tigers closed out the scoring on the evening with a three pointer and a free throw by Lauren Klinksick to make the final margin 73-37.

“I talked to the team earlier about not playing down to the competition,” Ross said. “We had some mistakes and turnovers, but a lot of that was because of the combinations of players we had on the floor, for the most part I thought we played pretty good defense.”

The Panthers have little time to savor their perfect record, as they will put their unblemished mark on the line on the road at Spring Hill on Friday, then will travel to Baldwin next Tuesday before hosting Louisburg a week from Friday in the WBCA Pink Out game.