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GIBSON CITY – Monday’s nonconference game against Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley marked the beginning of the end for Paxton-Buckley-Loda’s girls basketball team.
With Thursday’s Senior Night game against St. Joseph-Ogden the only regular season game remaining for her Panthers, head coach Clarissa Gross said after Monday’s game she is having a tough time letting go of her players.
“It’s scary to think Senior Night’s Thursday,” Gross said. “When you look at the season before it starts, you think three months is a long time, but you blink your eyes and here it is. I’m just not ready for it to end yet.”
The last week of the regular season got off to a winning start for PBL as it defeated GCMS 50-27, as the Panthers got a glimpse of what was leaving as well as their future.
One of PBL’s five seniors, Amanda Ypya, finished as the game’s leading scorer with 15 points, including 10 during a second half in which the Panthers outscored the Falcons 20-7.
“Obviously, Ypya’s been someone that we’ve been able to count on for most of the season for scoring,” Gross said. “In the one game (in the Sangamon Valley Conference Tourament) that they shut her down against Cissna Park, I think she played one of the best games of her life because she was able to get her teammates open. She’s just a girl who has a knack for the game. She’s played it forever. She plays it year-round, and so her basketball IQ is just so high. It’s going to be tough losing her.”
Kellyn Maynard, who moved up to the starting lineup Saturday against Cissna Park, scored six points in the first quarter en route to 13 for the game.
“We were, obviously, on a three-game losing streak (going into Saturday’s contest, and so we just needed to change some stuff up, and so we changed our starting lineup last game at Hoopeston and we did it again tonight,” Gross said. “Obviously, it has given us a great spark and set the tone early on, which was big for us. It’s sad that I only have Ypya for one year, but it’s exciting that I’ve got Kellyn for four years. I feel like she’s done a great job of jelling with this group. It’s just one of those things that’s bittersweet. You want to see those girls move on and enter into the next chapter of their life, but I’m just not ready to get rid of them quite yet.”
The first of Maynard’s baskets gave PBL a 10-0 lead as part of a 12-0 run with which the Panthers (18-7) started the game. Kandace Hofer and Kirstin Schnabel each scored four points during that run.
"We came out flat,” GCMS head coach Kyle Bielfeldt said. “We were never able to overcome that first two minutes where we just came out not focused. We came out flat, and they were able to take advantage of that. They just put it on us for the rest of the game. We’ve got a lot of things we’ve still got to work on. I just hope we can make a push late in the season.”
As a result of the early run and Maynard’s six points, PBL ended the first quarter up 16-6. Then GCMS (3-21) struck back with a 14-10 second quarter in which Katie Massey – who scored a team-high 11 points – tallied six points.
“In the second quarter, we finally figured out that we can play with them and we shouldn’t be scared of anybody, and we actually played really well,” Bielfeldt said. “Katie did a really good job inside for us.”
Gross said her team’s inability to play a full four quarters has been a problem for a while.
“I just feel like we’ve struggled – especially since Christmas – to put four quarters together,” Gross said. “That’s been one of our team goals every game – to play 32 complete minutes. Yeah, you’re going to have some minor letdowns here and there, but you can’t have an entire quarter be a letdown, and we did that tonight. I felt like we did a good job. We played three quarters tonight. We didn’t play a good second quarter. We allowed them to score 14 points, which I was a little frustrated with just because we’re better than that. We stopped doing the things that got us the big lead in that first quarter. We started out strong, and then for whatever reason, we just kind of backed off in the second quarter.
“I felt like we went away from what got us that lead in the first quarter. We were up 20-6, and we went away from it in the second quarter. If it’s working, stay with it. If it doesn’t, then make adjustments. But obviously, what we were doing in the first quarter was working. I think that we just got a few girls in foul trouble. Trying to get another five to really mesh well together is what we were searching for, and we were able to do that. I felt like our entire bench contributed tonight, and I’m really proud for these girls.”
After making some adjustments defensively, PBL yielded only four points in the third quarter and three in the fourth.
“We had a nice talk at halftime, and I felt like the girls made some adjustments,” Gross said. “That just talks to you about our defense. We can get after it and play smart when we want to, but it’s just getting those girls to want to do it. It’s communication. When you communicate with your teammates, you go from playing as individuals to playing as one. That’s something that we’ve emphasized all season long. Great teams communicate, and we came out in the second half and communicated and showed the type of basketball that we’re capable of playing. It’s fun to watch them when they play together like that. We were able to really step up the intensity in the second half and, obviously, extend our lead.”
LaToya Baillie scored GCMS’s only two field goals of the second half.
“We came out in the third quarter and couldn’t score, and the same thing in the fourth quarter,” Bielfeldt said. “That’s what’s going to happen. You’re going to get beat badly when you can’t score in the third and fourth quarter.”
Although she only scored four points, Andi Lemley made a splash for PBL on the boards, grabbing 11 rebounds. The Panthers ended the game with a 48-25 rebounding advantage.
“Rebounding has been something that we’ve really emphasized all season long – out-rebounding our opponents,” Gross said. “It doesn’t take a lot of skill to rebound. It just takes heart and the desire to want to rebound. When you can rebound and you can limit their second and third opportunities, things happen, and you saw that tonight. It was a great game.”
The Panthers hope to end their regular season with a better game than their last meeting with St. Joseph-Ogden – a 53-37 defeat in the SVC Tournament third-place game.
“They – especially our five seniors – realize that this is the last week of the regular season, so it means something to them,” Gross said. “We’ve had that mark of getting to the 20 wins, and we let some get away from us, so now we’ve really got to buckle down. Obviously, we didn’t play very well against St. Joseph-Ogden when we saw them in the conference tournament. I think the girls are hungry and are ready to play the Spartans again. I’m just really proud of these girls. They’re a fun group to coach, and I’m just not ready for it to be over.”
The Panthers’ junior varsity squadron lost to GCMS 39-18 prior to the varsity game.
Tawny Liggett led PBL with five points while GCMS’s Mikayla Baillie was the game-high scorer with 15 points.
PBL 50, GCMS 27
Jori Maynard 0-2-2, Janel Flanigan 0-0-0, Kellyn Maynard 6-1-13, Kirstin Schnabel 1-3-5, Sara Kennedy 0-0-0, Erin Lemley 3-1-7, Kandace Hofer 2-0-4, Andi Lemley 1-2-4, Brittany Heyen 0-0-0, Amanda Ypya 5-4-15. Totals 18-13-50
Taylor Boma 2-2-6, Jessica Meyer 0-2-2, Annie Schultz 0-0-0, Blythe Borton 0-0-0, Emily Elder 1-0-2, Katie Massey 4-3-11, Beth Kauffman 0-0-0, Brianna Wall 0-0-0, LaToya Baillie 2-0-4, Jillian Donoho 0-0-0, Kayla O’Neal 1-0-2. Totals 10-7-27.
PBL 20 10 12 8 -- 50
GCMS 6 14 4 3 -- 27
3-pointers -- PBL (Ypya).