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ST. JOSEPH – The Panthers will not play for a chance at their third consecutive Leader Classic championship.
Westville eliminated Paxton-Buckley-Loda with a 53-41 result Saturday morning, putting the Panthers at 1-1 in the tournament two days after they defeated a winless Fisher team 57-53 in overtime. Similar to its game against the Bunnies, PBL got off to a sluggish start in the first half, scoring only six first-quarter points en route to a 14-6 deficit heading into the second quarter.
Thanks largely to 11 first-half points from Layn White – who finished the game with 13 points – Westville (6-1) went into halftime leading 29-14. Axl Denault led the first-half scoring for the Panthers with four points.
“We came out flat in the first half,” PBL head coach Scot Vogel said. “We just didn’t play well. We’re in a lull right now, and we’ve just got to work harder. It’s one of those things – we’re not shooting the ball very well. We’re not executing at a very high level. Right now, it seems like we’re kind of going through the motions sometimes with things instead of playing with a sense of urgency.
“We’re coming out with really sluggish starts. I’m kind of surprised by that. In the past, we’ve usually come out really well. I realize it’s a different team with a different mentality and things like that, but still, (better starts are) our expectation. We’ve got to make sure we do a better job with that, and right now we’re just a step slow in the first quarter and it’s putting us behind and forcing us to play catch up. You can’t be competitive if you’re having to play that style of game all the time.”
Just like in the Fisher game – in which Weston Weber and Denault both fouled out – PBL found itself in foul trouble against Westville, as Drew Schrodt and Vaughn Gentzler both picked up their third foul in the second quarter. The Tigers had 16 free-throw attempts in the first half, of which they made eight.
“We’re getting into foul trouble because we’re being lazy,” Vogel said. “We’re not working hard on defense, and it’s putting us in foul trouble. I think some of that’s affecting us mentally. I don’t know, but right now, we’ve just got to get better at all different levels of the game.”
Tyler Rubarts finished the game with a team-high nine points, including five in the fourth quarter. Denault scored four points in the first and third quarters each to finish the game with eight.
Schrodt and Jeremy Walder each added six points. Despite his foul troubles, Gentzler scored his lone four points in the third quarter. Weber and Jay Eshleman each contributed three points while Dalton Dettmering tallied two points.
For Westville, Jeffery Thompson led the way with 16 points. Kyle Brazas scored in double figures as well with 12 points. Robert Elliott and Tanner Cox added nine and three points, respectively.
Beginning with PBL’s second game Saturday against Cissna Park, Vogel said his goals are to use every game through the rest of the season as a platform for improvement.
“Our motivation is to get better every day,” Vogel said. “The good thing about Illinois basketball is you’ve got end goals and midseason goals. Right now, the first quarter of the season is basically going to be done. For us, we’ll be at the one-third way mark, and we’ll have a lot to see in what we can do to get better over Christmas, but we’ve just got to start making sure we pick things up. Obviously, I’m disappointed in the way we came out with our effort and we’re not going to at least play Cissna with an opportunity to go on, but right now, we’ve just got to worry about getting better one game at a time, so we’ve got to focus on right here and now and playing for the big picture, which is the rest of the season.”
Cissna Park 55, PBL 35
At least after the first half, it seemed like PBL would have a chance to spoil Cissna Park’s chances for a Leader Classic title of its own.
The Panthers erased an early 8-3 deficit to tie the game at 10-10 thanks in part to five points from Tyler Rubarts. They proceeded to take the lead on a Drew Schrodt 3-pointer after trailing at the end of the first quarter 14-12 before gaining a 27-26 halftime lead – an almost parallel contrast to PBL’s start against Westville.
“For whatever reason, we just came out flat this morning,” Vogel said. “I don’t know – when you’re 16 or 17 years old, it’s not always easy to get up early in the morning. If I was playing, I probably wouldn’t always be the most excited playing early in the morning, but that’s just something we’ve got to learn to take strides and get better at. I was proud that our kids responded better (in the second game).”
After Weston Weber scored to extend the Panthers’ lead to 17-14, Cissna Park went on an 8-0 run to go back on top 22-17. Weber scored another two-pointer to end the run and Rubarts scored another field goal before Schrodt nailed another 3-pointer – his third bucket from beyond the arc – to put PBL in the driver’s seat 24-22.
The Panthers went into halftime leading 27-26 after two made free throws by Weber and one from Schrodt.
“We’re a young team,” Vogel said. “We’re learning and developing. I’m proud of our guys. They hung with a really good team for about three quarters. They just went on a run there, and we just couldn’t match it. That’s going to come with experience. I’m proud of the way the guys played the whole game. They played with a lot of intensity and a lot of effort. If we can keep doing that and make strides as the year goes on, we’ll be fine. It was good to see us respond and bounce back. Even though it was a loss, I thought our kids played really hard.”
In the second half, PBL (6-3) could only manage to score six points in the third quarter – four of which were tallied by Weber – and two in the fourth on a field goal by Schrodt. Meanwhile, Cissna Park’s Alex Rabe, who scored 10 points in the first half, added eight more in the second half to finish the game as the top scorer with 18 points.
Cole Hasselbring, who scored 24 points in a 62-34 win over Fisher in the Timberwolves’ first game, scored 10 second-half points to finish with 14.
“We played pretty solid there for most of the game," Vogel said. "Our legs just went out from underneath us towards the end. We just couldn’t hit a shot. We had a lot of good looks, but they went in and out. Sooner or later, the lid’s got to come off, and we’ll finally start making some shots consistently throughout the game, but I was pretty happy about the level of effort that we gave. Our kids fought, and that’s what I wanted to see.”
Beau Anderson scored in double figures as well with 13 points for Cissna Park. He, Hasselbring and Rabe are seniors, which contrasts PBL’s lack of senior leadership.
“That’s the thing – the seniors have been there before,” Vogel said. “That’s really the difference right now. We’re lacking some guys with some experience, but by the end of the year, I think we’ll be OK.”
Schrodt and Weber tied for the team in points for PBL with 12 points. Ruberts added seven points while Jay Eshleman contributed four points.
The Panthers will play in the fifth-place game against the loser of Monday’s contest between Olympia and Chrisman at 5:30 p.m. Friday.
“We’ve just got to come out and make sure that we play hard and continue to improve game-by-game like we talked about,” Vogel said. “We’ll be getting in the gym on Monday through Thursday and look to get ready for whoever we play – either Stanford Olympia or Chrisman. We’ll just have to see, and we’ll just have to continue to learn to make strides and educate our guys on what we need to improve on.”
If Cissna Park beats Westville Monday, it will play in the title game against St. Joseph-Ogden at 8:30 p.m. Friday. If not, the Timberwolves will be in the third-place game against the winner of Olympia/Chrisman at 7 p.m. Friday.
Olympia has a record of 1-9 after defeating Armstrong-Potomac 45-40 in Leader Classic action Saturday.
“I’m a first-year head coach. I don’t know what the matchups are,” Olympia head coach Jason Sweeney said. “We wanted to just come here and feel it out. We got our first win today. That was huge for us. We’ve been making great strides over the last couple of games. We have a lot of guys that have never played varsity basketball, so we knew it was going to be an adjustment.”
Olympia defeated PBL in the title game in 2009.
“They had a heck of a basketball team back then,” Sweeney said. “We went into the Elite Eight in 2008 and 2009.”
Chrisman also beat the Trojans 48-46 to improve to 6-7.
“Coach Vogel’s a good friend of mine,” Chrisman head coach Greg Gisinger said. “He’s a very good coach. But we don’t plan on playing that game. We plan on beating Olympia on Monday and playing the third-place against either Westville or CPCI. If we play PBL, they guard very well and move the ball and shoot it well. They’ll play really hard. If we play like we did tonight, they’ll beat us by 20 points.”