By Jay Young
Third-seeded Panama (14-6) was able to stick with top-seeded Sherman (20-1) for three quarters on Friday night at Jamestown Community College, but the Wildcats' offense proved to be too much in the final eight minutes as they finished with a 67-50 victory for a second consecutive Section 6 Class D boys basketball title.
Nate Ottaway of Sherman lays in two points against Panama in Friday night’s Section 6 Class C championship game. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photo by Jay Young
Jake Card's big night in the paint and Ryan Robson's late offensive explosion were the deciding factors in a game that was played at a frantic pace in front of a packed house.
Despite only notching one bucket in the first two periods, Robson caught fire when his team needed him and poured in 15 points in the second half to extend the Wildcats' stellar season.
"This is very sweet, I knew Panama was going to play us tough tonight and man they played a whale of a first half, actually a whale of a game," said Sherman coach Cory Emory. "I think our size just eventually wore them down. Nathan Ottaway had one heck of a game, too. We tried a couple of different things just to see what would work because they were shooting the ball so well and then we began to establish at about the middle of the third quarter our two big guys, Ottaway and Jake Card."
The Panther's showed enough resiliency to give Sherman a scare, despite falling to the Wildcats during both of their regular-season meetings.
Following the opening tip, Robson notched his only bucket of the first half with a steal and drive while Andrew Graham added two points of his own on a nice feed from Card.
Robson's defensive pursuit caused problems for the Panthers throughout the night as the senior had four steals to go along with his offensive production.
After dishing out an early pass to Graham, Card got started on the glass by banging in a pair of shots from the post as Sherman extended their margin to 11-2 in the early going.
The junior forward would go on to lead the Wildcats with six boards while picking up 14 points.
Dillon Mescall was able to stop the bleeding for Panama by nailing a trey from the wing and Greg Delahoy got in to the mix with inside buckets also.
After a sluggish start on offense, the Panthers started to find their rhythm in the closing minutes of the first period and narrowed the deficit to five points as the horn sounded.
Chris Blose started out the second quarter with a silky inside hook for Panama, which was followed by a three-point play from Delahoy to get the Panthers within two.
Sherman then lost its early lead after Blose nailed a pair of buckets from the foul line to tie the game at 22.
The Wildcats' offense continued to have some success as the half wound down with buckets from Card and Devin Moorhead, but a string of hot shooting by Panama proved to be enough for the lead.
Dan Odell's first two makes of the night came at the right time from beyond the arc to ignite the crowd and another trey by Mescall saw Panama head into the third quarter with a lead, 33-30.
After a wild first half the third quarter provided even more back-and-forth action with both teams jockeying for the lead constantly.
Moorhead notched a bucket on a nice hook shot to give Sherman a one point lead at 36-35 but Delahoy was able to respond with two baseline jumpers to turn the tide once more.
It was midway through the quarter when Card showed his range by hitting a dagger trey to take the wind out of Panama's sails.
After playing a phenomenal quarter of basketball the Panthers found themselves in a five-point hole after Robson picked up another steal and drive for two.
A three-point play from Robson to end the quarter silenced the Panama faithful once more and from that point on Sherman was able to rely on its size inside to finish the job.
"Our size helped make it a little more difficult for (Panama) on their offensive end and then I think as time went on you know jump-shooters their legs get a little tired,'' Emory said. ''Their shots got shorter and we were able to pound it in and get some easier baskets."
Ottaway pumped in six of his 12 points in the final period despite being in foul trouble, while Robson continued to elude the Panthers defensive scheme.
A final finger role by Card sealed the deal for Sherman's repeat as sectional champions as the JCC crowd rose to its feet.
"I love this environment cause its a packed house for all of these games, the fans are right on top of you and you can feel the excitement in the air, " said Emory.
Delahoy ended the night with 12 from the floor and Mescall notched ten points for Panama.
Graham followed behind Robson with 12 while Ottaway finished with 12 also.
Next for Sherman is taking on the Section 5 Class D champion in the Far West Regionals on March 8 at noon at Buffalo State
Blose 2 5 9, BPayne 1 0 2, Delahoy 5 2 12, Eddy 1 0 2, DOdell 2 2 8, Mescall 4 0 10, JOdell 3 0 7, Kirby 0 0 0. Totals 18 9 50.
Gleason 0 0 0, Graham 4 3 12, Robson 7 1 17, Cole 1 0 2, Moorhead 4 0 8, Myers 1 0 2, Card 6 1 14, Ottaway 6 0 12. Totals 29 5 67.
3-point goals: Graham, Robson 2, Card, DOdell 2, Mescall 2, JOdell.
Panama 15 18 11 6 - 50
Sherman 20 10 20 17 - 67