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Schmidt hits 20 in Panthers 63-43 win

Things haven’t been going real well for the Paola Panther Girls basketball squad in the early part of the 2009-2010 season. The Panthers opened the season with a solid win, but the dropped their second game of the season to a Piper squad they probably should have beaten. Then, in game number three, the Panthers fell again to Topeka Highland Park, and for the first time in a long time, the Panthers had more marks in the loss column than they did in the win column.

WLH0217 It was a recipe for disaster, heading into Osawatomie, with the Trojans on a two game win streak, starting to find an identity and looking for a victory over their cross county rival. While the Panthers are searching for an identity too, they do have some pieces left over from a team that nearly played for a state championship last year, sure, the Panthers are getting accustomed to playing without some very important cogs, but, the cupboard isn’t exactly bare.

The Trojans are trying to grow up as they play, featuring a team with but one senior and one junior, but they have played better in their last two games and the freshman and sophomore dominate lineup had picked up two straight victories. The stage was set for the Trojans, but it was the Panthers that turned in the game winning performance.

In vintage Paola style, the Panthers harassed the young Trojans all over the court, forcing numerous turnovers and when the smoke had cleared, it was the Panthers coming out on top of a 63-43, convincing victory over Osawatomie.

It didn’t start really well for Paola, as the Trojans jumped to a 9-4 lead on the strength of buckets by Kandice Firley, Tess Newport and a basket and three pointer by Rebecca Fisher. The Panthers remained calm though, and answered with two free throws from Kylee Mader, two baskets by Kayla Offutt and a basket and two free throw by Rachel Schmidt. The Schmidt free throws gave the Panthers a 10-9 lead, it was a lead they would never relinquish. Mader and Schmidt closed out the Panther scoring for the quarter and after the first eight minutes of play, the Panthers held a slim 13-11 lead.

The Panther lead ballooned to double digits at 24-13 as they opened the second quarter with an 11-2 run before a Newport three pointer cut the Panther lead to eight at 24-16. Following the Newport trey, the Panthers closed the half with another run, this time it was 10-6 and at the end of the first half, Paola lead the Trojans by 14 points at 36-22.

The mark of a good team is the ability to make adjustments at halftime, but with an extremely young team like the Trojans, that ability is limited at times, and for Osawatomie, it was not a good start coming out of the locker room, as Allison Wood, Offutt and Schmidt opened the quarter with baskets to push the Panther lead to 20 points at 42-22, and for all practical purposes the game was over.

The Trojans battled, never giving up, but were never able to slice into the Panther lead, and but the end of the quarter, Paola still had a comfortable, 19 point lead at 50-31. The two teams traded baskets through the fourth quarter, and when Wood hit two free throws late in the game, the Panther lead stood at 20 points and the game ended with the score 63-43.

The Panthers were paced by Rachel Schmidt who hit 20 points, all 20 coming in the first three periods of play. Courtney Johnson hit twelve points for Paola including six in the fourth quarter of play. Annie Kessler added eleven points for the Panthers as the only other players in double figures for Paola.

Rebecca Fisher was the only Trojan player to score in double figures with twelve points on two field goals, two three pointers and two for two from the free throw line.

The Panthers have one game remaining before the holiday break, as they will travel to Gardner on Thursday night to take on the Trailblazers. The Trojans don’t play again until January 5, 2010 when they will host the Spring Hill Broncos.

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