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Panther Sectional Upset Bid Falls Short, 48-28
March 7, 2007 - For over 19 minutes of the Sectional 41 battle between Knightstown and Shenandoah last week, the 1-20 Panthers had the 7th-ranked Raiders on the ropes.
Over the next 11 minutes, Shenandoah used that rope as Knightstown’s noose, running away with a 48-28 victory and ending the Panther season.
The Raiders, eventual sectional champion and owners of a 14-game winning streak, had no answer for Knightstown’s deliberate offensive strategy during the first half. The Panthers worked the ball patiently in a spread offense that was designed to find an open man near the basket.
The game plan worked to perfection as the Panthers forged ahead 16-12 at one point, and had forced a tie at 18-all at the halftime break. The Panthers were dedicated to that offensive strategy so much that they hadn’t attempted a shot from three point range, after averaging more than 20 tries most of the season.
Knightstown struck quickly in the third quarter after a three-pointer by Raider senior Tyler Smith gave Shenandoah a 21-18 lead – their biggest of the game at that point.
A basket by Dakota James and subsequent three-pointer from freshman Zach Apollos put Knightstown up 23-21 with 5:15 to play in the third frame.
The unthinkable was suddenly entering everyone’s mind as the Raiders found themselves in a battle. But the bottom fell out at that point.
Knightstown would manage just one more field goal over the last 13 minutes of the game, and that came from Apollos with just 2:18 showing on the game clock. In the process, the Raiders had turned a 23-21 deficit into a 45-25 lead by holding Knightstown to just two free throws from Kyle Buckley.
Buckley’s freebies came with 1:45 to play in the third quarter and cut Shenandoah’s lead to 30-25 at the time. But 15 unanswered points would follow.
Over that 11-minute scoring drought, the Panthers turned the ball over on five consecutive possessions and made nine turnovers in all. It was Shenandoah’s seniors schooling the Panther youngsters with aggressive defense and opportunistic playmaking that proved to be the difference.
When James hit with 7:22 to play in the third quarter, it marked the last time any Panther other than Apollos would hit a field goal in the game.
While the game may have ended ugly, it definitely didn’t start that way. Knightstown utilized that effective motion offense to get several easy baskets on outstanding passes. Despite committing 10 turnovers that prevented them from having a big lead, the Panthers still managed to be the better team over the first 16 minutes and trailed just once in the first half at 2-0.
Senior Nate Hibbert scored the first six Panther points, giving Knightstown a 6-4 lead at the midway point of the opening quarter. Apollos hit Buckley with a slick pass for two more inside, and Knightstown forced an 8-8 first quarter tie.
Maintaining the same patient strategy and some better passing, the Panthers held the lead when James scored on a Buckley pass, and Buckley scored on an assist by Apollos. All but two of Knightstown’s nine first half basket came on assists from teammates.
James scored on an assist from Bryce Cole, and Apollos hit a rebound basket that gave Knightstown a 16-12 lead with 3:09 to play in the first half. Amazingly, the Panthers led the Raiders by four points after having committed 10 turnovers, and without the Raiders being whistled for a single foul.
After a Shenandoah basket, Apollos hit again on the inside and it was 18-14, with Raider fans becoming nervous and Panthers fans either giddy or rubbing their eyes.
The momentum took a quick turn following another Panther turnover, and Shenandoah scored two quick buckets to tie the game at halftime.
The Knightstown locker room was one of cautious optimism, as Coach Chad Ballenger told his team they had put themselves in a position to win the game if they just continued to execute the game plan.
On the other side, Shenandoah Coach Aaron Cain told his team to continue with their game plan, but bring a little more intensity.
What ensued was the five Shenandoah seniors, with 12 years of varsity experience between them, took control of the game from that point on. The Raiders out-scored the Panthers 30-10 in the second half, and 18-3 over the final seven minutes to knock the Panthers from sectional play.
Apollos led the Panthers with nine points, getting those on 4-of-7 field goals. He also grabbed seven rebounds tying for game-high honors with Dakota James. James scored seven points, while Nate Hibbert scored six points. All of his scoring came in the first four minutes of the game. Kyle Buckley played well inside, finishing with seven points and five rebounds.
The Panthers finished the season with a record of 1-21, while Shenandoah advanced and eventually won the sectional by defeating Eastern Hancock and Muncie Burris. The 20-3 Raiders will play Park Tudor in the Alexandria Regional this weekend.
Foreman 7 1 15, Gray 5 3 13, Becker 4 0 8, Brinson 2 0 4, Cronk 1 0 3, T. Smith 1 0 3, C. Smith 1 0 2.
Totals: 21-41 4-8 48.
3-point field goals: Cronk, T. Smith. Rebounds: 21 (Gray 7, Becker 7).
Apollos 4 0 9, James 3 1 7, N. Hibbert 3 0 6, Buckley 2 2 6, Biehl 0 0 0, Lane 0 0 0, Cole 0 0 0, Hood 0 0 0, Kinnaman 0 0 0.
Totals: 12-35 3-4 28.
3-point field goals: Apollos. Rebounds: 26 (James 7, Apollos 7).
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