Defense lifts Panthers over Eudora

Now, that’s more like it. The Paola Panther Girls, at least on the defensive end of the floor, put together one of their most complete games of the season, as they completely shut down the Eudora Cardinals on the way to a 51-26 victory on Homecoming at Paola High School, on Friday, January 29, 2010.

WLH0325 Even with a game which saw the Panthers nearly double the Cardinals score, Panthers Head Coach Stuart Ross was not over impressed with the Panthers offensive effort.

“Offensively, we weren’t very good,” Ross said. “We had 13 turnovers in the first half and we held them to 10 points, take away a few of those and they might have scored only six.”

Indeed, the Panthers could look to their defensive effort in the first half, especially the last 10 minutes of play, with pride. The Cardinals scored 10 points in the half, and eight of those came in the first six minutes of the game, as Eudora opened four point leads twice at 4-0 and 6-2 to open the game. But Annie Kessler hit a bucket and Kylee Mader hit two of her game high 14 points, and with 2:14 to play in the first quarter, the Panthers had drawn even at 6-6. Katie Slavin hit two free throws to put the Cardinals in front for the last time in the game, before Rachel Schmidt hit a bucket to tie the game, and Mader converted a three point play to put the Panthers in from for good at 11-8 as the first quarter ended.

The Cardinals were as cold as the snowy, winter weather outside the PHS Gym as the second quarter started, and the Panthers took advantage to a certain extent, opening the second period with a 7-0 run to open an 18-8 lead with two minutes to play in the half. Cassie Roberts hit the Cardinals first and only field goal of the quarter with just under two minutes to play to cut the lead back to single digits at 18-12, but Melanie Golubski and Kessler hit single free throws to move the Panthers back to a ten point advantage at halftime at 20-10.

The Cardinals opened the scoring in the second half, but then went cold again under the pressure defense of the Panthers, who ran off 15 unanswered points to take a 23 point lead at 35-12 before the Cardinals scored the last four points of the quarter to head to the final eight minutes trailing 35-16.

The fourth quarter gave Ross a luxury he has not had too many times on the season, the opportunity to play a number of players in a winning setting, as he was able to freely substitute, and was rewarded with contributions from every girl that took the floor.

The Panthers outscored the Cardinals 16-10 in the final eight minutes to take the 25 point win. Mader and Kessler pushed the lead to 23 in the opening minutes of the quarter, and following a Cardinal bucket, Allison Wood showed hustle and the lost art of following one’s shot, as she flashed down the lane after missing the back half of a one and one, grabbed her own rebound and scored the bucket to push the Panther lead to 42-18. The Panthers nearly pushed the lead to 30 points late in the quarter as Kaylee Farmer made a steal and layup to give Paola a 28 point 49-21 lead on their way to the final 51-26 victory.

“The girls executed the game play exactly as it was drawn up,” Ross said. We tried some new things, and changed things up, with the half court trap and the full court zone press.”

Part of the Panthers offensive woes could be traced to their inability to hit free throws. After getting to the line 30 times on the night, the Panthers hit only 18 times for 60%, which will be problematic in close games, but on a blowout night like this, it will be just a statistic that will worry the coaches.

The Panther were lead in scoring by Mader, who hit 14 points, and was nearly perfect from the line at 4/5, before she fouled out of the contest early in the fourth quarter. Kessler hit nine points on the night, but struggled from the line, going 5/11, and Rachel Schmidt hit for eight points including 4/4 from the line. Courtney Johnson hit the Panthers only three pointer on the night.

The Cardinals put no player in double figures, and were paced by Bowser and Lehmann with seven points each. Bowser had a three pointer, and the Cardinals were 3/8 from the line for an even more dismal 37.5% from the free throw line.

The Panthers will return to the court on Tuesday, February 2, 2010 as they host the DeSoto Wildcats in a game that was postponed earlier in the month due to inclement weather. Paola will also travel to Ottawa to take on the Cyclones on Friday of next week.

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