Cyclones knock down Panthers 56-38

It took an extra few days, but the Paola Panther Girls basketball team finally retuned to action Tuesday night, January 12, 2010 in a home game against the Ottawa Cyclones. Unfortunately for the Panthers, the outcome was much like the pre-holiday games, as Paola dropped their fourth game on the season by a 56-38 score to the Cyclones, but for half of the game, the Panthers looked like they were beginning to figure things out on the court, much to the delight of head coach Stuart Ross.

WLH0315 “I was thrilled with the first half,” Ross said. “For a time during this game I saw us play like Paola Panthers.”

The first half was indeed a flashback to better days and times, as the Panthers used good ball movement, crisp passing and timely shooting and rebounding to hang tough with the Cyclones who demonstrated a decided height advantage over the Panthers, putting that advantage to good use during stretches of the game.

The teams traded baskets through much of the first half, as neither team could pull away to more than a three point advantage. The Panthers were first to open a three point advantage, as a 6-0 run turned a 3-2 Cyclone lead into an 8-3 Panthers advanage with three minutes to play in the first quarter. Annie Kessler, Kylie Mader and Ann Pomatto all contributed to the run. The Cyclones closed the quarter on an 8-2 run of their own to take a 13-10 lead at the end of the first quarter, as the Cyclones used their inside strength to turn the three point deficit into a three point advantage.

Makenzie Hallstrom pulled Paola back to within one point as the second quarter opened, but the Cylcones’ Shelby Miller gave Ottawa their second three point advantage of the half at 15-12. Mader pulled the Panthers back to even at 15-15 with a three point play. The teams continued to trade points through the remainder of the first half, with the game being tied four more times before a free throw by Mikela Scott gave the Cyclones a one point 26-25 lead at the intermission.

“Given everything that’s gone on with this team up to and through the holiday break, I thought we played really well in the first half,” Ross said. “I told the girls at halftime to enjoy that, because it’s fun when they do things right.”

Unfortunately for the Panthers, doing things right started to unravel a bit as the second half unfolded. Mader got the Panthers on the board first as the teams returned to action in the second half, as she hit two free throws to give Paola their first, and only lead of the second half. Miller and Kearsten Peoples put the Cyclones back on top with back to back baskets to open a 30-27 lead for Ottawa. Rachel Schmidt cut the lead back to one with a basket, but the Cyclones ran off three straight points to grab their biggest lead of the game at four points 33-29. Annie Kessler pulled the Panthers back to within two at 33-31, but the Cyclones answered with four unanswered points to grab a six point lead as the third quarter ended.

What hopes the Panthers had of climbing back into the game ended on the first possessions of the fourth quarter, as the Cyclones hit six straight points to push the lead to 12 points at 43-31, overall it was a 10-0 run to end the third quarter and start the fourth, and as it turned out, it was something the Panthers couldn’t recover from.

WLH0203a “The first four possessions of the fourth quarter took us out of position to stay close,” Ross said. “We had four straight turnovers which lead to four baskets and we were in a hole, we just couldn’t weather that run.”

Courtney Johnson knocked down a three pointer to slice the lead to nine at 43-34, but the Cyclones answered with a 5-0 run and suddenly the lead stood at 14 points at 48-34. The Cyclones closed the game on an 8-4 run to make the final margin 56-38.

“I hope the girls will draw some confidence from the first half,” Ross said. “Confidence brings success and success breeds success, the first half was fun and I hope they enjoyed it.”

The Panthers will have little time to enjoy, as they now must turn their attention to a road game at Baldwin on Friday, January 15, 2010 before heading to Burlington next week for their annual tournament.

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