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PAXTON — Paxton-Buckley-Loda head coach Clarissa Gross wanted her seniors to be the motivating force during her varsity girls basketball team’s upcoming games, knowing that the quintet’s time on the court together was dwindling.
On Monday, four seniors made vital contributions as host PBL upended Cissna Park 40-26 in the quarterfinals of the Sangamon Valley Conference tourney. The Panthers’ leading scorer for the season, Amanda Ypya, was held without a point by a defense geared to stop her. However, the point guard dished out seven assists and her classmates were effective in picking up the slack offensively.
Kandace Hofer scored five points in the first period as her team took a 14-3 lead and finished with 13 overall. Andi Lemley and Erin Lemley combined for 14 points, making six-of-11 field-goal attempts, and the pair totaled 15 rebounds in all as the home team won the rebound battle 31-19.
The PBL senior quartet’s work offset a game-high 15 points by Cissna Park freshman Addy Stoller.
At 7:30 p.m. Thursday, the 16-4 Panthers will travel to Iroquois West to play Watseka in the SVC tournament semifinals. Watseka beat Clifton Central 84-12 on Monday. The winner of the PBL-Watseka contest will face either St. Thomas More or St. Joseph-Ogden from the other semifinal in a 7 p.m. title game matchup Saturday at Parkland College in Champaign.
CP head coach Mark Redeker gambled on a triangle-and-two defense to curtail the scoring of Ypya, who entered Monday’s game averaging nearly 13 points after having scored 55 points her in two previous contests. But while Ypya attempted just three field goals, her teammates had more space to roam.
As a result, Hofer and the Lemley sisters combined for 12 points as the Panthers raced to an 11-point advantage.
“Yip has had some great games on the offensive end for us recently, really feeling it, so for them (Cissna Park) to come out and try to stop her right away didn’t surprise us,” Gross said. “But she’s a very unselfish basketball player and if you try to stop her, she’s going to find your weaknesses and she did that. College coaches don’t just want scorers; they want kids who will make their teammates better and she’s someone who does that.”
Although PBL’s offense bogged down a bit in quarters two and three, it didn’t seem to matter as the Panthers limited the Timberwolves to just three first-half field goals in taking a 21-9 lead into intermission. Hofer (who also had three assists) then heated up in the final period, scoring eight of her team’s 12 points, as Stoller’s 11 second-half points weren’t enough to help CP mount a serious comeback.
In light of the fact that the team’s previous meeting with the Timberwolves ended with a last-second, two-point win, Monday’s decisive margin was a pleasant surprise.
“I’m proud of my girls,” Gross said. “They (CP) came out in the second half with a little run and we didn’t freak out. We were able to answer them with our own run and take final control of the game. I thought we played well.”
Last Thursday, the Panther offense was clicking on all cylinders during a 93-33 home victory over Clifton Central.
Ypya scored a game-high 26 points, Hofer had a season-high 18 and sisters Erin and Andi Lemley combined for another 20 points as the Panthers took a 37-13 lead after one period and led 64-21 at halftime before slowing down a tad.
About the only downer on the night was that Sara Kennedy (the team’s backup center) was ill and didn’t enjoy the on-court success like the other four seniors.
A few underclassmen had solid scoring nights too for PBL. Freshman Kellyn Maynard had 12 points and sophomore Kirstin Schnabel added 11 more as Gross’ team made 43-of-82 overall field goal tries for 52 percent while forcing 30 Clifton Central turnovers.
Ypya followed up a career-high scoring effort of 29 points against Rantoul on January 5 with another stellar overall game, making four 3-point baskets, dishing out five assists and grabbing four rebounds while finishing 11-for-20 from the field. She had eight points in the first 64 seconds of the game as her team took an early 10-0 lead.
Hofer helped her team make 10 of their first 11 shots by handing out four early assists and had seven in all while making nine of her own shots in 10 attempts. She also had five steals and four boards.
Erin Lemley had been held scoreless in two consecutive games as she battled an injury, but she made her first four shots and finished with 12 points. Andi Lemley did a little of everything with eight points, six boards and four assists and steals.
And Schnabel did all of her offensive damage in the first half, making five-of-seven shots in converting passes from Hofer or Ypya. She collected five rebounds as well.
For Clifton Central, Sara Lemenager led the Comets with 11 points, including a pair of 3-point baskets.
Gentzler leads JV
Freshman Aleeka Gentzler hasn’t been a prolific scorer for the PBL junior varsity until recently, but she’s making the most of her chances now.
She had her second consecutive 10-point performance as the Panthers (9-4) beat Clifton Central 43-14 last Thursday.
Gentzler had six rebounds for the home team, which took a 12-0 lead after one period. She had scored 10 points during a 29-23 loss to Rantoul five days earlier.
Another freshman producing big numbers against Clifton Central was Audrey Bloomquist, who tallied 10 points and added five steals, four assists and three rebounds.
Caitlynn Riblet pitched in with eight points, four steals and three boards while Abby Sellek had six points, Abby Glazik four and Bethany Knight and Tawny Liggett two apiece.
Haley Elson had four rebounds for the Panthers, who raised their SVC record to 3-1.