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PAXTON – After a 48-point loss to Sangamon Valley Conference foe St. Thomas More, the Paxton-Buckley-Loda girls varsity basketball team needed a dose of energy as the Panthers played host to Rantoul Saturday night.
Amanda Ypya filled the bill quite ably, scoring a career-high 29 points as PBL edged the Eagles 56-53 to move to 14-4 overall. Ypya also grabbed six rebounds, dished out five assists and had four steals as the Panthers survived a furious Rantoul comeback after leading by as many as 16 points.
Hannah Wascher, the area’s leading scorer, kept her Eagles within striking distance with 17 first-half points and finished with 29 in all. She also grabbed a game-high 12 boards.
In the first period, Ypya may have played her best stretch of basketball all season, making her first five shots and assisting on three other PBL baskets as the Panthers took a 22-10 lead. Head coach Clarissa Gross’ team made nine of their first 10 shots thanks to nifty passing by Ypya and Kandace Hofer, who also had three assists in the opening eight minutes.
Perhaps Ypya had it easier on Saturday than at practice — Gross has been putting two defenders on the senior point guard to challenge her more.
“She was obviously feeling it early on and that was a good thing,” Gross said. “If she hadn’t we’d probably have a loss right now.”
Although PBL’s ball-handling was sloppy in the second period (eight turnovers), Ypya fed Kellyn Maynard for a basket with 1:59 left in the half to put PBL up 35-19.
But after Ypya scored three straight field goals for her team to put them ahead 43-29, Rantoul began chipping away.
Wascher made a 3-point basket and Jasmine added another to bring the Eagles to within five points (47-42) with 5:54 remaining.
Hofer’s basket with 2:52 left gave PBL a 53-43 lead, but the visitors wouldn’t go away. The Panthers needed to convert a half-court inbound pass in the final seconds after Rachel Mullen’s trey made the final margin just three points.
Kellyn Maynard finished with eight points and six rebounds and Hofer added seven points and five assists to support Ypya’s efforts. Erin Lemley grabbed five boards and Andi Lemley produced four points, rebounds and steals each on Saturday.
Although 26 turnovers didn’t please Gross, the Panthers shared the ball well early on, dishing off 10 assists in the first half as the team made 15-of-25 field goals (60 percent).
The second half shooting was much worse (7-for-21), but Ypya made some nice moves on drives in the lane and added a trio of 3-point baskets on a highlight-reel night. Thankfully for the Panthers, her all-around game prevented a demise that could’ve put a damper on a season that has had many more highs than lows.
“We started out so strong, we built that big of a lead and then you let your opponent come back into the game and give them life and we’re battling at the end of the game; it should’ve never come down to that,” said Gross.
On Thursday, there may have been only one Ypya highlight moment — she grabbed the errant jump ball tip, drove to the basket and converted a nifty layup six seconds into the STM contest.
Other than that, the bulk of the highlights belonged to 6-foot-4 freshman center Tori McCoy, who scored 20 points, grabbed 10 boards and blocked six shots in a 76-28 win over the Panthers.
McCoy’s muscle in the middle enabled STM to outrebound PBL 46-34 in moving to 4-0 in the SVC, a game ahead of PBL (3-1). But the home team made just 12-of-54 field-goal attempts (22 percent) in having its four-game win streak snapped, with Ypya’s nine points leading the Panthers.
McCoy opened the first quarter with three inside baskets and grabbed four rebounds to help her team gain a 19-11 lead.
Andi Lemley scored twice from in close during the first period. A Ypya feed led to a Kirstin Schnabel three-point play that closed out the quarter on a positive note for PBL.
But McCoy’s four blocked shots in the first half seemed to demoralize PBL’s inside players from then on, and the second quarter showcased McCoy’s all-around game.
The Sabers scored 27 consecutive points over a 7:19 stretch. McCoy scoring 10 of those, including a steal and coast-to-coast layup, and a couple of smooth inside buckets.
By halftime, the score was 48-13 in STM’s favor as the Sabers made 18-of-28 field-goal attempts (64 percent) while limiting the home team to 6-for-26 (23 percent) shooting.
PBL showed some life early in the second half, Ypya scoring six of her team-high nine points and the Panthers forcing three STM turnovers. But McCoy made a couple of inside baskets and made a nice tip pass off an inbounds play to lead to an Erica Wallen layup before sitting down after the third period with her team ahead 63-21.
Fellow starters Erica and Lexi Wallen each had 11 points, Randa Harshbarger added 10 points (she also had five rebounds and steals) and reserve Liz Bristow scored all 10 of her points in the fourth period for the visitors, who are 17-1 overall.
For PBL, Erin Lemley grabbed eight rebounds and Ypya had three steals to lead the Panthers in those categories. But it was a game best forgotten, and that’s what Gross tried to do in preparing her team for the rest of the season, which begins Thursday with a 7:30 p.m. home conference game against Clifton Central.
“We didn’t really bring it up; a loss is a loss and you can’t go back and change it,” she said about the STM defeat. “But I told the girls we needed to work on us. I don’t know if we’re in some kind of funk, or what, but we’ve got three days of practice to work it out.”
On Monday, the eight SVC teams will begin play in its conference tourney, which will be played at PBL and Iroquois West. The Panthers’ Monday opponent has yet to be determined. SVC tourney play continues on Thursday, Jan. 17 (either at PBL or Iroquois West) with the championship game held Saturday, Jan. 19, at Parkland College in Champaign.
JV loses twice
PBL’s junior varsity basketball team fell to 8-4 overall with a 29-23 loss to visiting Rantoul Saturday night in a game played at PBL Junior High.
The JV lost to STM 48-18 Thursday as Caitlynn Riblet led her team with five points and Audrey Bloomquist, Haley Elson and Tamra Kuester had four each.
Early in the season, Kellyn Maynard and Kirstin Schnabel had done the bulk the scoring, combining for 22 points per contest during the team’s initial nine games.
Since then, the scoring load has been a little more evenly distributed. Abby Sellek was averaging five points, five rebounds per game before Saturday, Elson was scoring four points per contest and Riblet averaged three.