PBL High School girls basketball wins 35-30 over Villa Grove/Heritage in season opener

FISHER -- En route to a 35-30 victory over Villa Grove/Heritage in the Lady Falcon & Bunnie Tip-Off Classic on Monday, the Paxton-Buckley-Loda High School girls basketball team had to overcome some adversity.
The Panthers saw a 26-19 lead disappear as the Blue Devils tied the game with a 7-0 run.
“We kind of needed a tight game just to humble us and show us how much work we need to do," Lawler said.
Mackenzie Bruns stole the ball in VG/H's backcourt and scored on a layup to give PBL the lead back at 28-26. A Liberty Jamison free throw extended the lead to 29-26 with 3:59 remaining in the game.
After VG/H's Aliya Holloman -- who was the game's leading scorer with 15 points -- scored on a fastbreak layup to cut her team's deficit to 29-28, Bruns -- who finished the game with a team-high nine points -- made another basket to make the score 31-28.
Holloman made another bucket before Bruns assisted Ariana Gentzler on a basket on which Gentzler was fouled by VG/H's Kyleigh Block while she made the shot with 1:55 left in the game to extend PBL's lead to 33-30.
“Mackenzie did a great job. She played hard for us," Lawler said. "She really stepped up for a sophomore. If she keeps doing that, we're going to be in a good spot to win.”
Jamison made two free throws with 30.2 seconds remaining to extend PBL's lead to 35-30.
“Learning to fight through a little adversity's definitely good for us for the first game," Lawler said.
Cassidi Nuckols started the fourth quarter scoring with a bucket that extended a five-point PBL lead to 26-19. 
She and Gentzler, however, would eventually be called for their fourth fouls as VG/H scored three of their next seven points on 3-for-6 shooting from the free-throw line. 
The fourth quarter was the only one in which PBL's defense yielded double-digit points. The Panthers outscored the Blue Devils 7-6 in the first quarter and 13-6 in the second to go into halftime leading 20-11.
“We played really well defensively for three quarters," Lawler said. “We slipped (by the fourth quarter). We got in foul trouble and got less aggressive. We kind of backed off and got beat on some back-cuts, but overall, I'm really happy with our defense.”
The Panthers still went into the fourth quarter with a five-point lead despite scoring only four points in the third quarter. 
Gentzler, who finished the game with seven points, scored three of those points while Bruns added a free throw.
Jamison scored five of her eight points in the first half while Nuckols tallied six of her eight points in the first half as well. Madi Peden scored all three of her points in the second quarter.
"Offensively is where we've got to grow right now," Lawler said.
The Panthers went 10-of-24 from the free-throw line, including 3-for-12 in the fourth quarter, and committed what Lawler estimated to be 20 turnovers.
“Right now, those are things that are fixable," Lawler said. "Those are teaching things. In November, those mistakes are expected. Those are great learning and teaching points, and we've just got to keep getting better every game.
“We lacked some confidence at some points. We either made a bad pass or missed a free throw, and we started to sink. We've got to really build ourselves up and feed what we call our positive ball, and we've got to do a better job of that.”
The Panthers will continue playing in the Lady Falcon & Bunnie Tip-Off Classic in Fisher with a 5:30 p.m. game Tuesday against Unity and a 7 p.m. contest Thursday against Fisher. The host Bunnies defeated Unity 43-39 in the other Monday tournament game in Fisher.
“It's good. I like the mental aspect of it. We're going to be put into almost every situation we're going to face within the first week," Lawler said. "It's just good to go out and compete against someone different from ourselves. There are a lot of good teaching points. Overall, I think we've just got to keep coming together as a team and believing.”
PBL 35, Villa Grove/Heritage 30
VG/H 5     6     8   11    -- 30
PBL 7    13    4   11    -- 35
Villa Grove/Heritage
Jordyn Ray 1-0-2, Destiny Miner 0-0-0, Sophia Wegeng 2-0-4, Kyleigh Block 0-3-3, Hannah Hudson 0-0-0, Aliya Holloman 6-3-15, Emilee Coffin 0-0-0, Kaylee Knell 1-0-2, Maddie Shunk 0-0-0, Sammy Campbell 2-0-4. Totals 12-6-30.
Liberty Jamison 2-3-8, Mackenzie Bruns 3-3-9, Madi Peden 1-1-3, Valeree Johnson 0-0-0, Ariana Gentzler 3-1-7, Kirra Lantz 0-0-0, Madison Grohler 0-0-0, Cassidi Nuckols 3-2-8. Totals 12-10-35. 
3-pointers -- PBL (Jamison). 


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