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PAXTON – With a 27-22 lead late in the third quarter Saturday, the Paxton-Buckley-Loda girls varsity basketball team seemed destined to soar into the rare air of an eight-game win streak, something that hadn’t occurred in four years.
Instead, the Panthers plummeted to earth, missing 13-of-15 field-goal attempts in a final period freefall, ending in a 45-37 non-conference loss to visiting Fisher.
Head coach Clarissa Gross’ team finished 15-for-57 from the field (26 percent), many of misses coming on short shots or layup attempts, in falling to 9-3 overall.
Even more frustrating was her team’s foul shooting woes, a 5-for-15 performance that included seven consecutive misses. Naturally, Gross was despondent after the affair, her team’s seven straight wins (by an average margin of 15 points) overshadowed by a game that got away.
“The game is a momentum thing; there are swings back and fourth and teams make different runs,” Gross said of her team’s collapse in the closing minutes. “But we stopped doing the things that got us ahead. And when you start playing timid — when you play not to lose — that’s what happens. The only word that I have to describe this one is ‘disappointment.’”
The Panthers had edged Fisher in a Nov. 15 contest on a late-game basket by Amanda Ypya. The game was just as closely-contested in Saturday’s first half.
Panther senior forward Kandace Hofer scored eight of her 10 points in the opening 16 minutes to help her team take an 18-17 lead into the break. The team seemed to solve Fisher’s pressing defense that had forced PBL into 32 turnovers in the prior meeting.
Trailing 22-21, freshman Kellyn Maynard (10 points) scored two baskets during a 6-0 run that gave the home team its largest lead.
But PBL failed to build up any momentum by missing a slew of free throws in the third period — and the visiting Bunnies eventually capitalized.
Down 29-26 heading into the final quarter, Sydney Blackwell (11 points) made her third 3-point shot and Kelcie Fredrickson added another trey while Fisher forced five turnovers with its full-court press, helping the visitors gain a 38-31 lead with 2:40 left.
The Bunnies then built on their advantage by making free throws, with Hannah Varner (10 points) hitting four and 6-foot-2 center Caitlin Cole (12 points) hitting two more. Over a 9:09 span, PBL was outscored 15-2, nullifying any late-game heroics by Ypya or anyone else in the Panther lineup.
Last Tuesday had a happier ending as PBL won its third consecutive game by more than 20 points, beating visiting Blue Ridge 50-27 behind 11 points from Erin Lemley and Kellyn Maynard’s 10 points. Hofer and Jori Maynard added seven points apiece as the Panthers took an 18-6 lead after one period and extended the margin to 18 points (28-10) at the half to put the game away.
At 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, PBL gets a chance to regroup before the Christmas break, playing host to Shiloh in a non-conference contest. The Panthers will then play three games over two days (Dec. 28-29) at the Momence Christmas Tourney before hosting state-ranked St. Thomas More at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 3, in Sangamon Valley Conference action.
With a four-game win streak before the end of year, PBL could finish the 2012 of its schedule with a 13-3 mark, which would nearly match the 14-3 mark the 2008-09 squad started with en route to a 21-6 season. That kind of ending to the month might help erase the memory of Saturday’s loss, but it didn’t seem likely as Gross discussed the frustration she felt as she watched her senior-dominated team struggle against Fisher.
“There were way too many missed layups, way to many missed free throws,” Gross stated. “We should’ve won that game. We’ve told our players that you have to be disciplined or you’ll regret it and every single girl in that locker room wished they could get that one back and we can’t. I’m sure our girls are tired of me talking about the little things (that win games), but you don’t have a 100-point play that you can set up. I struggle to find anything positive about this game.”
JV Panthers edge Fisher, now 7-1
Kellyn Maynard scored 18 points and PBL made 6-of-9 foul shots in the closing minutes to hold off Fisher 46-43 Saturday in junior varsity play.
Abby Sellek contributed 12 points, Kirstin Schnabel pitched in with seven and Caitlynn Riblet had four more as head coach Lynn Rubarts’ team moved to 7-1 overall.
PBL led 34-22 heading into the final period before the Bunnies used a 21-point fourth quarter to make things interesting.
Five days earlier, there was no such drama as the Panthers routed Blue Ridge 62-17 behind 18 points by Schnabel and 14 by Maynard. Tamra Kuester added eight points while Sellek, Haley Elson, Aleeka Gentzler and Bethany Knight had four each.