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CLIFTON – In a Clifton Central Regional semifinal game that clearly symbolized their season – according to Paxton-Buckley-Loda head coach Scot Vogel – the Panthers lost to the Comets 44-29.
After falling behind 11-5 late in the first quarter, PBL (16-13) went on an 11-6 run, led by seven points from Drew Schrodt, decrease its deficit to one point in the second quarter. From there, however, top-seeded Clifton Central (19-9) scored the last four points of the first half and outscored the No. 4-seeded Panthers 23-13 in the second half to pull away.
“I thought there were times when we played well, and then there were times where we weren’t. That just kind of sums up how (this season has) been – up and down,” PBL coach Scot Vogel said. “It seemed like we could get everybody on the same page where multiple guys had really strong games all at the same time. We had lots of guys step up at different times, which is good for coming into next year, but we just could never, for some reason, just sustain a long-term effort for multiple people in one game consistently. That really came to hurt us.”
Clifton Central raced out to its early lead thanks to three 3-pointers, including two from Justin Lemanager – who hit four treys to tie for a team-high with 12 points.
“It’s nice to see them go in, but at the same time, when you start making them, everybody wants to keep shooting them,” said Comets coach Josh Sertich. “It’s nice to make them, but we tried talking to them at halftime about doing some different things, and they did a good job of attacking their zone in the second half.”
Logan Podowicz sank eight free-throw attempts for Clifton Central as it outscored PBL 14-6 in the fourth quarter. Podowicz had 12 points as well.
The Comets will face Momence, who defeated Watseka 56-50 in the other semifinal game, for the regional title at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Clifton Central lost to the Redskins 73-70 in a Jan. 11 meeting.
“It’s going to be a tough game,” Sertich said. “We already lost to Momence. I think it’s going to be a great game. We’re just happy to be playing on Friday.”
The Panthers, meanwhile, were 0-for-7 from the charity stripe.
“Again, that’s kind of a culmination of our season,” Vogel said. “We missed a few 1-and-1s, and we ended up losing by 11. We’ve just got to get better at our consistency offensively. It is what it is. There’s nothing else you can say.”
Besides Schrodt, who scored a game-high 13 points, no other PBL player scored more than six points.
“Shooting was the key thing,” Vogel said. “We have to make sure we get in the gym over the summer. Zone or man – whatever we were playing – I thought we were doing pretty well at times defending, but offensively, we just were not very good all year long.”
Schrodt is one of seven juniors on PBL’s squad.
“(This season was) not what we expected, but it’s over with. You can’t do anything about it now,” Schrodt said. “We were shooting for 20 wins, but it happens. Hopefully, we will be better (next year). We’ve just got to work at it and get better in the offseason on the little things.”
The Panthers defeated Clifton Central in its previous meeting 45-35 Dec. 4.
“That was the third game of the year for us,” Sertich said. “They had played a few games in the (PBL-Manteno Interstate Classic). It was so early in the year. You could never tell from – or put any stock into – what happens early on in the season. It’s all about how you’re playing at the end. (The Panthers are) a good basketball team. They’re young, like us. They’ve got almost everybody coming back. They’re going to be a load next year. They always play hard and they get after it defensively. They’re going to be tough next year.”
Clifton Central 44, PBL 29
Vaughn Gentzler 0-0-0, Jay Eshleman 0-0-0, Tyler Rubarts 3-0-6, Weston Weber 0-0-0, Axl Denault 1-0-2, Jeremy Walder 1-0-2, Drew Schrodt 6-0-13, Johnny Walder 2-0-6, Parker Young 0-0-0, Kyler Swanson 0-0-0, Patrick Brown 0-0-0. Totals 13-0-29.
CLIFTON CENTRAL (19-9)
Chris Garcia 1-0-2, Justin Lemenager 4-0-12, Carter Turner 3-0-7, J.R. Caspary 0-2-2, Lucas Blume 0-0-0, Logan Podowicz 2-8-12, Xavier Hill 0-0-0, Corey Gifford 0-0-0, Noah Frerichs 3-1-7, Landon Rosenboom 1-0-2. Totals 14-11-44.
PBL 7 9 7 6 -- 29
CC 11 10 9 14 -- 44
3-pointers – PBL 3 (Jo. Walder 2, Schrodt). Clifton Central 5 (Lemenager 4, Turner).