Panthers pounce on Lions
Zach Miller picked a great time to play his best game of the season. One of five starting seniors on Senior Night, Miller led from the tip-off, scoring 21 points en route to a 65-51 win over visiting Bishop Ryan on Tuesday.
Miller, usually the team’s third-best scoring threat, established himself immediately with an assertive nature around the rim. He scored the team’s first six points, erasing Ryan’s only lead of the game with a mid-range jumper to give the Panthers a 6-5 advantage they would not relinquish.
“It feels good on a Senior Night to play well and I think we all did,” Miller said. “They were a tough team.”
The senior trio of forwards – Heidlebaugh, Miller and Nolan Hovland – played especially well against a tough Ryan side that trailed by just four points at the half. The big men weaved smoothly around the paint, finding each other on give-and-go plays and drive-and-dish setups.
“It was good to see (Miller) come out and start the game that way,” RHS coach Mike Santjer said. “I was glad to see that and maybe we’re turning the corner to see him start like that every game.”
Heidlebaugh had game-highs of 22 points and 11 rebounds and Hovland joined senior guard Tanner Bernhardt with 5 points apiece. Miller had 15 of his in the first half.
“We’re good at moving the ball,” he said. “We’re good at seeing the open guys. If you can get the ball through the high post you can tear almost any defense apart.”?Ryan hung around through the third quarter, largely due to full-court pressure to extend the RHS possessions and the Lions committed just six turnovers in the first half. The Panthers led 44-34 after the third quarter, but Heidlebaugh took over in the fourth and scored 13 in the frame. He was fouled on a dunk and converted the 3-point play for his final points at home.
“I thought we competed well and took an early punch and battled back,” Ryan coach Brock Teets said. “They jumped us in the third to extend the lead. You have to play them well for four quarters.”?Junior reserve Hunter Hager scored 8 points for the Panthers.
It was all about the seniors for a night and it is a group that will long be remembered.
“You never want to see a group of kids like this leave,” Santjer said. “They’ve put so much into the game and not just basketball, but all athletics and academics. It’s just a fun, good group of kids to hang around with.”
The Panther finished the season against Benson County on Friday. The District 11 Tournament starts Feb. 26.
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