PBL girls basketball defeats Rantoul 35-21

PAXTON -- In early December, some room for improvement is expected for most high school basketball teams.
For the Paxton-Buckley-Loda girls basketball team, there is at least one aspect in which the team could use some improvement, according to head coach Nathan Lawler -- consistency.
“We play one or two really good quarters, and then we're kind of struggling for one or two quarters," Lawler said. "We need to do a better job of piecing together a whole game.”
For Rantoul, better offensive execution would be nice, according to its head coach, Kelly Thompson. 
In Monday's 35-21 loss to PBL, the Eagles scored only four points in the first quarter and were shut out in the second.
“I always give my girls a goal, and it's to hold a team to under 35 points. Defensively, we met our goal tonight," Thompson said. "Offensively, we have to learn to be able to execute a little bit more and be able to finish our baskets.”
Rantoul finished the game making only 8-of-22 shots inside the perimeter while Courtney Sutherland finished as the Eagles' leading scorer with seven points.
“We've got to be able to execute and finish our shots," Thompson said.
While Rantoul was held scoreless in the second quarter, PBL scored its lone two points of the quarter via a fastbreak layup by Gentzler -- who led the Panthers in scoring with 12 points -- to extend its lead to 8-4 at halftime.
“Rantoul played extremely hard for four quarters today," Lawler said. "Their coaching staff is doing a phenomenal job of trying to build a culture and identity. You've got to give them props – they scouted us, and they did a good job.”
After Sutherland made two free throws to give Rantoul a 2-0 lead, Mackenzie Bruns -- who added 10 points -- scored on an offensive-rebound putback to tie the game. Bruns then stole the ball in Rantoul's backcourt, which led to two free throws that gave the Panthers a 4-2 lead with 4:54 remaining in the first quarter.
Myejoi Williams scored on an offensive-rebound putback to tie the game at 4-4 before Gentzler scored off another offensive rebound to give PBL a 6-4 lead.
After that score, both teams were held scoreless until Gentzler's fastbreak layup with 1:46 left in the second quarter.
“We missed some shots that we've got to hit, but that's just part of still playing basketball during December, especially early in December," Lawler said. “We made a few adjustments. We reverted to some bad habits tonight – not necessarily basketball-wise. We had some bad attitudes. We weren't being great teammates, and our effort wasn't where we need it to be.”
Rantoul missed all four of its free-throw opportunities in the second quarter. After drawing PBL's Cassidi Nuckols's third foul with 5:48 left in the third quarter, Williams missed two free throws to keep the score at 8-4.
The Eagles finished the game making only 2-of-11 shots from the charity stripe.
“We didn't make our free throws. If we make those free throws, we're still in that basketball game," Thompson said. "The girls fought hard the whole way.”
Eight seconds after Williams' misses from the free-throw line, PBL's Liberty Jamison was sent to the charity stripe. She made two free throws to extend the Panthers' lead to 10-0 and start a 7-0 run.
Bruns made a shot while being fouled with 5:27 left in the third quarter. Thirteen seconds later, Jamison drained a 3-pointer to make the score 15-4.
“Adversity's never a bad thing. You can learn from every situation, and that was a good learning point," Lawler said. "It was good for our seniors to have to step up and lead, and they did a great job of talking and doing a better job of communicating. That's the biggest thing right now – those little pieces are what make championship teams, and we just have to do it more consistently.”
After Rantoul's Faith Johnson made a basket to end her team's scoring drought with little more than four minutes left in the third quarter, an offensive-rebound putback by Elaine Barnett cut the Eagles' deficit to 15-8.
Gentzler then drew Barnett's fourth foul before sinking a free throw to extend PBL's lead to 16-8 with 3:44 left in the third quarter. She would not foul out, but Williams and Johnson would both foul out by the game's end.
Williams made a bucket to cut Rantoul's deficit to 16-10 before Bruns and Dystiney Hightower exchanged baskets to make the score 18-12.
Gentzler made two baskets, including one on a fastbreak layup off a Jamison steal, to extend PBL's lead to 22-12. Johnson made a basket before PBL's Madi Peden scored off a Bruns steal and assist to make the score 24-14.
By the end of the third quarter, PBL led 24-16. In the fourth quarter, the Panthers (5-3) outscored Rantoul 11-5 as Peden scored three points while Gentzler made 3-of-4 free-throw attempts.
“We played much harder and with more intensity in the second half," Lawler said. "The girls met those standards that we hold them all accountable to in that second half and they played well enough to win.”
PBL's win over Rantoul (3-5) was its first home victoy of the season.
“We haven't had much success at home for some reason," Lawler said.
After traveling to Downs for a  nonconference game Tuesday against Tri-Valley, PBL will hope to have some more success at home as it hosts Sangamon Valley Conference foe Clifton Central on Thursday. 
The Panthers will then travel to St. Joseph-Ogden and Momence the following Monday and Thursday, respectively.
“This four-game stretch is a big one for us, no doubt," Lawler said.
Junior varsity
The PBL junior varsity team won 45-29 Monday over Rantoul.
The Panthers erased a 6-5 first-quarter deficit by outscoring Rantoul 13-0 to take an 18-6 halftime lead. After a 13-13 third quarter, PBL then earned a 14-10 advantage in the fourth quarter.
Brooke Walder led PBL in scoring with 14 points while Hannah Schwarz had eight points, Mallorie Ecker had seven points, Baylee Cosgrove and Kirra Lantz each had six points and Macie Rudin and Abbi Williamson each had two points. 
PBL 35, Rantoul 21
RAN 4    0   12     5     -- 21
PBL 6    2   16    11    -- 35
Rantoul (3-5)
Jada Mosley 0-0-0, JawDayjha McClyde 0-0-0, Faith Johnson 2-0-4, Courtney Sutherland 2-2-7, Emma Mihaly 0-0-0, Myejoi Williams 2-0-4, Elaine Barnett 1-0-2, Dystiney Hightower 2-0-4. Totals 9-2-21.
PBL (5-3)
Liberty Jamison 1-2-5, Mallorie Ecker 0-0-0, Hannah Schwarz 0-0-0, Mackenzie Bruns 4-2-10, Madi Peden 2-1-5, Ariana Gentzler 4-4-12, Kirra Lantz 0-0-0, Clarisa Wieneke 0-0-0, Baylee Cosgrove 0-0-0, Madison Grohler 1-0-2, Brooke Walder 0-0-0, Cassidi Nuckols 0-1-1. Totals 8-10-35.
3-pointers -- Rantoul (Sutherland). PBL (Jamison).
PBL 45, Rantoul 29
RAN 6     0     13   10    -- 29
PBL 5    13    13   14    -- 45
Kohonna Miller 0-0-0, Jazmeon McClyde 3-1-7, Kianna Berlaksky 3-0-6, A'daja Johnson 0-0-0, Adilynn Hall-Gay 2-3-7, Tanaya Young 2-0-4, Laysha Rivera 1-0-3, Sierra Logan 1-0-2, Thrinnagee Sengsone 0-0-0, Mackenzie Flahaut 0-0-0. Totals 12-4-29.
Macie Rudin 0-2-2, Skyler Eaker 0-0-0, Hannah Schwarz 3-1-8, Kayla Adwell 0-0-0, Abbi Williamson 1-0-2, Mallorie Ecker 3-1-7, Baylee Cosgrove 2-2-6, Kirra Lantz 2-2-6, Kayla Suhl 0-0-0, Brooke Walder 6-2-14. Totals 17-10-45.
3-pointers -- Rantoul (Rivera). PBL (Schwarz).


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