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PAXTON – After the Panthers won three consecutive PBL-Manteno Interstate Classics, Tri-Valley took the throne last year.
It looked like PBL would have a chance to reclaim its place at the top after it led the Vikings 15-7 at the end of the first quarter and 26-18 at halftime in Friday’s game, the final one of pool play. The game served as an unofficial semifinal game, as both teams entered with 2-0 records in the tournament.
Tri-Valley, however, outscored PBL 18-4 in the third quarter en route to earning a second straight berth in the tournament title game with a 53-41 victory over the Panthers.
“I thought in the first half, we came out and we played well,” PBL head coach Scot Vogel said. “But we didn’t maintain the things that we were working on.”
After the Panthers took a 6-5 lead, Drew Schrodt scored five of his seven first-quarter points during a 9-2 PBL run – which started with a Schrodt 3-pointer and ended with one of his field goals. He scored five more points in the second quarter. Axl Denault, Weston Weber and Vaughn Gentzler each scored two points in the quarter as well, as Gentzler tallied his fourth of five game-total points at the halftime buzzer on a pass from Jay Eshleman.
Gentzler and Weber each scored four points in the first half. Weber finished the game with six points.
Schrodt was PBL’s points leader with 20.
Due to some adjustments to Tri-Valley’s defense, PBL turned the ball over numerous times en route to only four third-quarter points.
“They switched to their 2-3 zone and then they jumped to 1-3-1,” Vogel said. “It’s one of those games where we rushed against it. We didn’t really attack it like we had discussed, and this is just one of those things where it’s going to be a learning process for some. I know we’re young, but at some point, it’s not going to matter anymore. We’ve got to make sure we step up and start making plays, and we’ve got to make sure we do it for the full game.
“Earlier in the week, we were able to force the tempo of the game the entire game. Tonight, we got away from it in the third quarter when they started mixing in some different types of zones. That’s something where we’re just going to have to continue to work at it and sit there and make sure we continue to focus on the little details and go from there.”
The Vikings’ Blake Cowden scored twice as many points in the third quarter en route to a game-high 26 points.
“I thought the Achilles heel was definitely the third quarter,” Vogel said. “We came out and hit a shot, but then after that, they went on an 18-4 run, and they just took it at us. It goes back to us trying to force things. We played into their hands. Against a zone, you can be a little more patient against it and really look for some good stuff. I thought we just rushed some things and settled instead of really making them try to come out and guard us. That was really the difference in the game.”
Tri-Valley outscored PBL 17-11 as the Panthers made only 2-of-10 free-throw attempts. PBL finished the game shooting 5-for-16 from the charity stripe.
“We didn’t help ourselves on the free-throw line, either,” Vogel said. “I thought that we left a lot of points out there on the floor. It might have been a little bit different at the end of the game there had we made some of those. That’s not something that was very pleasing to see. We’ve got to make sure we focus on that and take care of those things, too.”
Like Gentzler, Denault finished the game scoring five points. Eshleman and Tyler Rubarts contributed four and one point, respectively.
For Tri-Valley, Travis Goveia joined Cowden in the double-digit club with 13 points. Joel Kussmann scored eight points while Aaron Tagala and Tyler Halloran added four and two points, respectively.
The Panthers (2-1) will play in the third-place game at 4 p.m. today. They will go up against Manteno, which fell to 2-1 after losing 48-30 to Peotone in Friday’s game at Manteno.
“Manteno’s got some size,” Vogel said. “We’re just going to have to be ready to play. If we don’t maintain for a full game playing for a full 32 minutes, it’s going to be one of those situations. They’ve got some size, and they’ll definitely take advantage of it if we don’t play composed and play the right way the whole game. It’ll be interesting to see how we rebound. Good teams come back and they rebound, and we’ll have to see how it goes.”
Tri-Valley, meanwhile, will face Peotone in the tournament championship game at 5:30 p.m. today.