PBL boys basketball takes fifth at The Leader Classic

 

ST. JOSEPH – At least from an offensive standpoint, the fifth-place game of The Leader Classic showed why Paxton-Buckley-Loda was not defending its two-time titlist status.

The Panthers salvaged fifth place regardless Friday by defeating Stanford Olympia 36-28 despite only 14 points in the first half.

“There was just a lid on the rim,” PBL head coach Scot Vogel said. “It’s just one of those things where you’ve just got to keep shooting, and sooner or later, you’ll come out of it. It’s like a Major League Baseball hitter. When you’re in a slump, you’ve just got to go up there and keep taking cracks at it, and eventually, they’ll fall.

You come over here and you try to compete as hard as you can. Obviously, we felt that we didn’t play our best basketball. We’re just going through an offensive funk right now, but I thought our kids battled back tonight and showed some toughness and finished out the game.”

The Panthers took fifth place thanks in part to a defense that yielded only 12 points to Olympia in the first half, including five in the second quarter. After trailing the Spartans 7-6 at the end of the first quarter and 11-6 at one point in the second, PBL went on an 8-1 run to close the first half.

In the third quarter, PBL allowed only four points – on a basket by Tyler Deal – en route to entering the fourth quarter leading 26-16.  

“We always take a lot of pride in defense,” Vogel said. “We hang our hat on it. Especially since we were being outsized, we knew we’ve got to bear down defensively. I was pretty proud of our kids. I didn’t realize that we only allowed that many points. They’ve got a lot of size, so I think that’s good for us. We’ve just got to make sure that we continue to build from it and continue to make improvements as the season goes on and – when the new year comes around – continue to fine tune as the year goes on.”

Meanwhile, the Panthers managed to get some shots to fall. Jay Eshleman and Drew Schrodt each sank a 3-pointer to erase PBL’s 11-6 second-quarter deficit and take a 14-12 lead into halftime.

Weston Weber initiated the second-half scoring for PBL (7-4), draining a 3-pointer to extend PBL’s lead to 17-12. Weber would finish the third quarter with seven points while Schrodt added three and Axl Denault contributed two.

“We did hit some shots when we needed to, but when we had opportunities to extend leads, for whatever reason, it’s been in and out or the ball just rolls around the rim and drops out versus dropping in,” Vogel said. “It’s just one of those things where you hope that, as the season moves on, we continue to work at it and just keep shooting.”

The Panthers’ cold spell continued in the fourth quarter, as a Weber field goal gave PBL its first two points of the quarter with about 2:50 remaining. That was the only field goal the Panthers would score in that quarter.

“For whatever reason, we have not shot the ball very well,” Vogel said. “It’s just one of those things where we’ve got to make sure we continue to work on it and things like that. The kids take a lot of pride in it. They work very hard at it, but for whatever reason, this is just the first time we’ve been over here in a long time where we’ve not shot the ball this poorly for that long. We took good shots, too. A lot of them were good shots.”     

Meanwhile, Olympia’s Reese Stroud scored two buckets in the post to start the fourth quarter scoring and cut PBL’s lead to 26-20. A two-pointer from Ethan Schmidgall cut the Panthers’ lead to four prior to Weber’s bucket, which made the score 28-22 in favor of the Panthers.

Stroud tied with Weber for the game-high in points with 14, but fouled out with 1:41 remaining, as PBL scored eight of its fourth-quarter points via free-throw attempts.

“I thought our kids did a good job of continuing to attack him,” Vogel said. “Stroud’s a good player at 6-foot-6. I thought Axl (Denault), for the size disadvantage that he had, and Jeremy (Walder) did a good job of limiting his possessions and things like that.”

For the junior Weber, the game-high was not what mattered to him.

“It was a team win,” Weber said. “That’s all I’m concerned about.”

Eshleman and Schrodt each contributed nine points for PBL. Tyler Rubarts and Denault each had two points.

For Olympia, Schmidgall tallied six points while Deal had four points and Jean Humphrey and Braden Halliday each added two points.

The Panthers, with their junior-laden squadron, will take the court for their next game at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 5, when they host Rantoul.

“A championship (at The Leader Classic) would be nice, but we’ve just got to improve on things if we want to beat the best teams instead of being satisfied with beating just the OK teams,” Weber said. “We’ve just got to do the little things right – just get better at that. We’ll be better, of course, for next year. We’ll all be more experienced. It’s not an excuse for now. We’ve still got to play to the best of our ability right now and see what next year holds.”

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