By Jay Young
MAYVILLE-After fighting tooth-and-nail for two quarters against No. 2 Clymer (11-9), the No. 3 Panama Lady Panthers (14-4) were able to pull off the upset, 57-40, to move on to the Section 6 Class D girls basketball championship game.
Sherman’s Emilee Sperry passes to a teammate during Tuesday night’s Section 6 Class D semifinal game against Clymer. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photo by Jay Young
Despite trailing at the end of the first and second quarters, Panama shot its way back into the semifinal game with 17 points in the third quarter to pull away from the Lady Pirates.
Clymer was doomed by a string of turnovers in the final seconds before halftime, during which the Lady Panthers were able to go on an eight-point run that shifted the momentum of the game.
"Yeah, usually we do quite well against the press, in fact most of the season we have played very well against the press,'' Clymer coach Scott Neckers said. ''I think tonight with a little added pressure it just, we didn't do too well. It was a good press but we turned the ball away way too many times.''
Before the Lady Pirates began to struggle with offensive possessions, the meeting was full of close back-and-forth action with scoring on both ends of the floor.
Breanna Summers came out fired up by nailing a 3-point shot from the wing to begin the game for Clymer, which was followed shortly by a deep 2 from Brianna Marsh of Panama.
An open break by Carly McAfoose brought the Lady Pirates to within a point at 8-7 as the buzzer for the opening period sounded and the fast pace of the game was no different moving in to the second quarter.
Kayla Gilkinson gave Clymer a six-point lead to begin the period on a pair of easy drives to the basket and McAfoose added to the margin with a putback tally.
Following the lapse in defense, Panama coach Rob Collver was able to rally his team and turn on the heavy backcourt press that proved decisive.
"Well Allison Strickland our senior who had a torn MCL earlier in the year came back and was playing a little bit, came in that second half and just ignited that press,'' he said. ''She did a great job and then Bree Marsh on the back end, I don't know how many tips she had but she had a bunch of tipped balls and steals. Between those two seniors, they led us down the road.''
While it looked like Clymer had taken over control of the game in the second quarter, the Lady Panthers press caused five turnovers to end the half, four of which resulted in easy points.
After picking up more possessions thanks to their press, Panama benefited from distributed scoring as five different players added points in the eight minutes leading up to the fourth quarter.
Emilee Sperry managed to sink all four of her chances at the free-throw line while Brittany Lenart chipped in five points on a deep trey and a jumper from the wing.
"I expected a really tight, close, physical game," Collver said. "And it was, but I did not expect our press to work as well as it did. The previous two games they broke our press pretty easily and forced us out of it in both games. So I wasn't expecting it to work that hard, but we made adjustments at half time and the girls did a great job."
McAfoose was able to keep the game tight thanks to a stellar effort on the glass, as she finished with 17 boards and 14 points for Clymer. Following closely behind was Gilkinson with nine points .
Panama had three players finish in double figures with Sperry leading the way with 15 points and five steals. Brittany Lenart was high in rebounding with seven boards and Marsh reaped the benefits of the press, amassing eight steals and four blocked shots to go along with her six points.
"Well we were missing our point guard for one of the games that we lost so we knew that it was going to be better coming in to (this game) and that we would have a better chance,'' Kelsey Johnson said. ''It was great to have everyone back because we all got to support the effort and I think that is what really helped us.''
Saturday will be the first time in school history that the Lady Panthers have advanced to a sectional championship game as they face off against No. 1 Pine Valley at 1p.m. at Jamestown High School.
King 0 0 0, Bowen 4 4 12, Sperry 5 4 15, Strickland 4 4 12, Marsh 3 1 6, Lenart 5 0 11, Manwearing 0 0 0, Smith 0 0 0, Torres 0 0 0, Conway 0 0 0, Johnson 0 1 1. Totals 21 13 57.
White 0 0 0, King 1 0 2, Covey 0 0 0, Gilkinson 4 1 9, Reinwald 0 0 0, Wade 1 0 2, Trisket 4 0 8, Emory 0 0 0, Einink 0 0 0, Heil 0 0 0, Summers 2 0 5, McAfoose 5 4 14. Totals 17 5 40.
3-point goals: Sperry, Lenart, Summers.
Panama 8 13 17 9-57
Clymer 10 12 10 8-40