Late slump costs Panthers at Baldwin

The little things. It’s always been said the little things make the biggest difference. The Paola Panther Girls basketball team is living proof of this old adage. Playing in their second game since coming back from the holiday break, the Panthers have been close to putting things together. They have taken their last two opponents deep into the second half, hanging right on the edge, making it a game that could go either way.

WLH0416 Unfortunately for the Panthers, the games have gone the wrong way, but there are signs of good things, if the Panthers can just take care of the little things. At Baldwin Friday night, January 15, 2010, the Panthers were within three points early in the fourth quarter, in a one or two possession game, with a chance to win a big game on the road, but a 7-2 run by the Bulldogs sealed the fate for the Panthers, turning a three point 39-36 game into a more comfortable eight point lead, allowing Baldwin to pull out a 54-41 victory.

“Everything we have been working on has been about the little things,” said Panthers Head Coach Stuart Ross. “At halftime we talked about it again, and as soon as we start fixing some of them, things will get better.”

It wasn’t easy early, as the Bulldogs pushed out to a 5-0 lead and later held a six point advantage at 9-3, but a three point play from Mackenzie Hallstrom and two free throws from Courtney Johnson cut the lead to just one at 9-8. Baskets by Baldwin’s Taylor Brown and Kailyn Smith sandwiched around a bucket by Rachel Schmidt closed out the quarter with the Panthers trailing 13-10.

Things started to click for the Panthers in the second quarter, as they opened with two quick baskets from Kylee Mader and Annie Kessler to grab their first lead of the game at 14-13. Baldwin answered on a basket by Katie Kehl to regain the lead, but then the Panthers went on a 6-0 run on free throws from Melanie Golubski, and baskets from Mader and Hallstrom to jump out to a 20-15 lead.

Myranda Behrens stopped the run for Baldwin with a basket to draw back to 20-17, but Allison Wood answered with a pair of free throws to make it 22-17, Paola. Following a Baldwin free throw, Cheyenne Rankin knocked down a three pointer to give the Panthers their biggest lead of the half at 25-18 with just seconds to play. The Bulldogs got a huge lift going into halftime, as, after a time out with 13 seconds to play, Brown hit a three point shot as time expired to grab momentum and cut the Panther lead to four heading into the locker room at 25-21.

“We have to do a lot of things right to win ball games,” Ross said. “We’re seeing improvement, like we shot free throws well in the first half, and we did a good job on turnovers, but that broke down in the second half.”

The momentum continued to swing in the Bulldog’s favor coming out in the third period, as they went on an 11-4 run to open the second half to turn a four point deficit into a three point lead, at 32-29. Kessler and Johnson answered for Paola and the Panthers climbed back in the driver’s seat with a 33-32 advantage, but the Bulldogs ended the third quarter on a 7-0 run to grab a six point 39-33 lead heading to the fourth quarter.

WLH0431 Johnson nailed a three pointer to open the fourth quarter for Paola and cut the Baldwin lead to three at 39-36, but that was as close as the Panthers would come, as the Bulldogs turned up the pressure, and the Panthers were unable to answer. Over then next few minutes the Bulldogs went five of seven from the charity stripe and added a basket from Monica Howard, while the Panthers managed only a Johnson basket, and with time starting to run out, the Panthers trailed by eight at 46-38. The Bulldogs managed to stretch the lead to double figures, pulling away late to seal the 54-41 victory.

Probably the most telling statistic for the Panthers was turnovers, having only five in the first half, the Panthers turned it over nine times in the third period, when the Bulldogs grabbed control of the game, on the way to 11 second half turnovers. Another area that hurt the Panthers was defense, Ross said the full court press was looking good in the first half, but in the second, problems with rotation in the defense lead to breakdowns and easy buckets for Baldwin.

“We can’t give up though,” Ross said. “We’re starting to have games where a lot of kids are contributing, and that’s something that’s going to pay off down the road.”

The road will get no easier for the Panthers, as they will open play at the Burlington Invitational Basketball Tournament on Tuesday, January 19, 2010 where they will take on Sabetha in the 6:40 game at the Burlington Middle School. Play will continue in the tournament on Friday and Saturday of next week.


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