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CHAMPAIGN – In a span of less than 24 hours covering parts of Friday and Saturday, Paxton-Buckley-Loda played two road games that required about 50 miles of travel.
The end result was a couple of victories that pushed PBL to the 10-win mark. After defeating Iroquois West 70-52 Friday in Onarga, the Panthers traveled to Champaign for a Saturday afternoon game with Judah Christian and squeaked out a 43-42 win over the Tribe.
“This is something that isn’t ideal, really,” PBL head coach Scot Vogel said. “It’s a weird schedule, but that’s the way the schedule fell this year. Those test you. It’s one of those things where I wouldn’t want to do it all the time, but it kind of lets you know where you’re at. I thought, for the most part, we handled it.”
After scoring a team-high 22 points against Iroquois West, Tyler Rubarts started off Saturday’s game by making 3-of-4 free-throw attempts during the Panthers’ opening 6-0 run. After making a go-ahead 3-pointer to give PBL a 9-8 lead early in the second quarter, however, he was shut out for the rest of the game.
“I thought he came out and he was really aggressive to start off, but then he kind of backed off,” Vogel said. “He’s got to keep that aggressive mindset all game. He kind of went away from that aggressive mindset, and he’s got to make sure he continues to have it. Once he does that and he’s like that all the time, he’s going to be really successful. We’ve all seen his ability to score and things like that, but that comes from being aggressive, and he’s just got to make sure he does that game-in and game-out.”
The Panthers continued to lead 6-0 against Judah Christian from the 5:38 mark of the first quarter until the 3:48 mark, when Nick Berger put the Tribe on the board with a bucket. That basket started an 8-0 run that gave Judah Christian an 8-6 at the end of the first quarter.
The Tribe, led by seven points from Dylan Hamilton, went on a 10-0 run in the second quarter to go up 18-9 before PBL responded with a 12-0 run. Jay Eshleman and Johnny Walder each scored on a fastbreak layup off a steal to cut Judah Christian’s lead from five to one at 18-17.
Drew Schrodt tallied the go-ahead basket on a fastbreak layup and made a jump shot in the final seconds of the first half to give the Panthers a 21-18 halftime lead.
He also sank one of his four 3-pointers in the third quarter during an 8-3 run that extended PBL’s lead to 29-21. Vogel said, however, there was potential to extend the Panthers’ first and third quarter leads a little further.
“I thought we had chances early to extend the lead,” Vogel said. “In key situations, our decision making wasn’t up to par, and we’ve just got to make sure we’re taking steps forward. I thought, in this game, there were chances to extend the lead, and we kind of tried to force some things. We’ve just got to get back to where we’re making improvements game-by-game and things like that.”
Instead, Judah Christian went on an 8-2 run to end the third quarter trailing 31-29. The Tribe took a 33-31 lead before Schrodt responded with a 3-pointer.
Judah Christian developed a lead of 40-36 with 5:19 left in the game. Jeremy Walder made a basket to cut PBL’s deficit to 40-38 with 2:22 remaining.
Schrodt went on to drain a go-ahead 3-pointer to put the Panthers up 41-40. After scoring 14 points against Iroquois West, Schrodt finished the Judah Christian contest with a game-high 18 points.
“Drew had a really big 3-pointer,” Vogel said. “That’s a sign of a closer. He’s hit a couple of big 3-pointers like that. It’s one of those deals where he’s got ice water in his veins. He’s not scared to take a shot, make or miss. Most of the time when you have that mindset, you’re going to be successful. Drew’s been really steady for us.”
Axl Denault, who scored 10 points against Iroquois West, tallied what would be the game-winning two points to give PBL a 43-42 lead. He finished the Judah Christian game with four points.
“I thought those two guys (Schrodt and Denault) had some big plays for us in key moments,” Vogel said. “I thought Axl made a good read to put us up. He saw a lane and drove and finished. That’s going to give Axl a lot of confidence. He’s made some great reads the last couple of games.”
The Panthers would hold on from there despite being called for a technical foul when Jeremy Walder touched the basketball as Judah Christian attempted to inbound the ball following Denault’s field goal.
“Normally, if you reach across the line, then it’s going to be a warning,” Vogel said. “But the officials said it was a technical because he actually hit the ball. The rules of the game are the rules of the game. We’ve got to quit fighting ourselves and beating ourselves and make a simple play and stay focused and mindful of what we need to do. We try to force things to happen instead of just letting things happen. We’ve just got to make sure we continue to talk about that and work on it.”
Hamilton missed both of the resulting free-throw attempts with 45 seconds remaining and PBL stopped a Judah Christian offensive attack in the final seconds to hang on.
“It was a really close game,” Vogel said. “I tip my hat off to Judah. They came out ready to play.”
The Panthers (10-7, 2-3 Sangamon Valley Conference) will travel once again Tuesday, facing Watseka at approximately 7:30 p.m.
“We are not consistent to the level where we need to be,” Vogel said. “We are making improvements, but we’ve still got to get consistent. We played a great game against Cissna Park, played a really good game against Iroquois West, and then we were a little bit flat today. We’ve just got to make sure we continue to make strides and remain focused and do all the little things right.”
PBL 70, Iroquois West 52
PBL (9-7, 2-3)
Jay Eshleman 3-0-8, Tyler Rubarts 6-9-22, Weber 1-2-4, Axl Denault 4-2-10, Jeremy Walder 2-4-8, Drew Schrodt 3-7-14, Johnny Walder 1-2-4. Totals 20-26-70.
Zach Small 0-1-1, Keaton Zirkle 6-8-24, Jordan Hansen 3-0-7, Austin Zirkle 4-0-9, Wesley Grant 1-0-2, Michael Farmer 3-1-7, Austin Conrad 1-0-2. Totals 18-10-52.
PBL 17 19 17 17 -- 70
IROQUOIS WEST 19 8 18 7 -- 52
3-pointers -- PBL 4 (Eshleman 2, Rubarts, Schrodt). Iroquois West 6 (K. Zirkle 4, Hansen, A. Zirkle).
PBL 43, Judah Christian 42
Vaughn Gentzler 0-0-0, Jay Eshleman 3-0-7, Tyler Rubarts 1-3-6, Weston Weber 1-0-2, Axl Denault 2-0-4, Jeremy Walder 2-0-4, Drew Schrodt 7-0-18, Johnny Walder 1-0-2. Totals 17-3-43.
Dylan Hamilton 7-0-16, Colby Chatterton 0-0-0, Aubrey Davis 3-0-7, Myles Roosevelt 0-0-0, Ethan Chitty 2-0-5, Tim Widick 0-0-0, Nick Berger 7-0-14. Totals 19-0-42.
PBL 6 15 10 12 -- 43
JUDAH CHRISTIAN 8 10 11 13 -- 42
3-pointers -- PBL 6 (Schrodt 4, Eshleman, Rubarts). Judah Christian 4 (Hamilton 2, Davis, Chitty).