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 Orbiting Apollos Launches Panthers: Sophomore's 31-point, 18-Rebound Night Rockets KHS to 61-45 Win Over Morristown

January 30, 2008 - Averaging less than 50 points per game this season, the Morristown Yellow Jackets were an unlikely candidate to put up 35 first half points against the Knightstown Panthers. But they did exactly that, stunning practically everyone with a 35-30 lead at intermission.

But it didn’t last.

The Panthers put the ball into the hands of sophomore Zach Apollos, and the big man scored 18 of his game-high 31 points in the second half. Knightstown dominated the game over the final 16 minutes in running to a 61-45 victory, their sixth win of the season.

The second-half massacre saw Knightstown hold the Yellow Jackets to just 10 points, while the Panthers put up 31 by hitting 10-of-17 field goals. The primary reason for that was Apollos, who scored 16 points in the fourth quarter on five-of-six fielders and five-of-six free throws. He alone outscored Morristown by 10 points over the game’s final six minutes.

“Zach probably could have had 40 points but he missed some easy shots in the first half,” Panther mentor John Howell said. “We have really talked about not living and dying by the three-pointer and working the ball inside. Zach is not a selfish player and he’ll kick the ball back out when he needs to.

“The last couple of games he has played pretty well inside, and when he kicks the ball back out, the players are in position to take a good three-point shot. That’s when we are effective.”

Knightstown missed a lot of easy inside shots during the first half, and Morristown made them pay. The Yellow Jackets got outstanding games from seniors Pete Schmith and Cody Riley. Those two combined for 30 of Morristown’s 35 first half points.

The Yellow Jackets actually built a seven-point lead in the second quarter, using a 16-7 run to take a 33-26 lead. Zach Apollos hit inside and Seth Apollos followed with a pair of free throws to make it 33-30.

But Schmith grabbed a rebound and drove the length of the court, slicing toward the left side and hitting a layup just before the horn. He wasn’t challenged the entire way, and that put the visitors up 35-30 at the break.

Panther fans were stunned by the unexpected turn of events. Although the Yellow Jackets had been playing very well as of late, the 35 halftime points were just 14 short of their season average for an entire game.

“Early in the game we just missed a lot of easy shots and had some unforced turnovers,” Howell said. “A lot of their points came off of things we did wrong. In the second half we mixed up our defense and changed a few things.”

The changes worked. Morristown had hit 65 percent in the first half, but stepped into a second half cooler. Knightstown forced 18 turnovers in the game, and 12 were in the second half.

It still took the Panthers some time to get it going offensively. A rebound basket by Zach Apollos accounted for the only Panther points in the first five minutes of the third quarter and the Panthers missed five straight shots.

Still, Morristown couldn’t do anything with the ball and had gone into a bit of a four-corner offense, taking time off the clock and nursing a 37-32 lead. That’s when the flood gates opened and the Panthers started a run that would extend to 29-8 over the game’s last 10 minutes.

Junior Kelton Lane came up with a steal and then drilled a three-pointer from the right corner that cut the lead to two, the closest the Panthers had been in more than eight minutes.

The Panther defense stiffened and clutch plays changed the game’s momentum. Brice Biehl drew an offensive foul, and on the next series Bryce Cole stole the ball. He drove inside and was hammered, but hit the shot. Cole completed the old-fashioned three-point play that gave Knightstown a 38-37 lead with 1:18 to play in the third quarter. That was the Panthers’ first lead since the four minute mark of the second quarter, when Biehl put them up 24-22 with a trey. Morristown had followed that bucket with an 11-2 run.

But there would be no repeat of that run. Colton Kinnaman barely moved the net in swishing a three, and the Panthers took a 41-39 lead into the fourth quarter. In holding the Yellow Jackets to just four points in the period, Knightstown had completely changed the game’s momentum.

After a couple of free throws by Schmith tied the game at 41, Kinnaman came right back with a trey that put the Panthers up for good. Knightstown closed out the final six minutes with a 20-4 run by going inside to Zach Apollos, who scored 16 of the team’s final 17 points and played with more emotion than he has shown the entire season.

Apollos got a steal and took the ball in for an easy two. On the next possession he muscled his way inside for two more, and was fouled. His free throw gave him five points in a 30-second span and put the Panthers 49-43.

Lane was then fouled, and after hitting the first free throw, he missed the second. But Apollos grabbed the offensive rebound and scored. In the process, he was fouled, and completed his second straight three-point-play.

Suddenly, with 4:55 to play, the Panthers were ahead by 10 points and had put up nine points in just 90 seconds. Apollos hit three-of-four free throws to increase the lead to 56-45 at the three-minute mark.

For good measure, the Panther big man knocked down a three-pointer when the Yellow Jackets left him alone on the left side. Morristown’s defenders just backed up to protect the lane, and Apollos swished the nets from deep in the corner.

His last two points came when Lane fed him with a great pass for two more, increasing the lead to 61-45 with 2:20 still to play.

Morristown was out of gas. The Yellow Jackets couldn’t compete with Knightstown’s depth. Howell went to his bench often and it showed in the fourth quarter. Morristown made no effort to come after the ball handler in the final two minutes, and the Panthers just let the clock run out.

It was a very satisfying win for the young Panthers, who improved to 6-10 on the season.

Zach Apollos finished with another double-double, getting 31 points and 18 rebounds. Seth Apollos had eight points, and all came in the first half.

Lane had seven points, while Biehl and Kinnaman each scored six. All three of those players drilled two three-pointers, and every one of those came at clutch times when the Panthers were trailing.

Cole scored three points, but those were some of the biggest of the game as well. His three-point-play put Knightstown up in the third quarter and they never trailed again.

 

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