Lady Panthers rebound after loss
By Sue Sitter
If the Lady Panthers still felt the sting of a 57-63 loss to Four Winds/Minnewaukan Saturday, it didn’t show in Tuesday night’s game against Shiloh Christian’s Skyhawks.
The Rugby girls took ownership of their home court early, as Anni Stier and Brooke Blessum deflected pass after pass from the Skyhawks and turned them into baskets. Both Stier and Karsyn Hager sank 3-pointers to build a 16-7 team lead at the end of the first quarter.
The Skyhawks made sure to connect with 6’2″ Jacie Hall as much as possible, and the sophomore managed to break through the Panther defense a few times to move close enough to the basket to score a layup and a few more 2 pointers. Skyhawks Allison Bearstail, Olivia Martin and Grace Kelly moved in when Hall couldn’t, sinking 2 and 3 point shots to narrow the score gap to seven points, but the Lady Panthers still led 30-23 at the half.
The Panthers roared back after halftime with more blocks against the Skyhawks and quick passes from Stier, Hager, and McCabe. Maria and Brooke Blessum angled for clear shots a few times to chants of “5,4,3,2,1” as the crowd counted away the seconds they had left to get rid of the ball. But the two still built on the Panthers’ lead, and the third quarter ended with a 40-31 score.
The fourth quarter saw a more physical game, with Panther Sarah Blessum hitting the floor and rising slowly with a red mark on the side of her face. After a quick break to catch her breath, she was back on the court. Sarah and Brooke Blessum drew fouls to add free throw points to the board, as did Karsyn Hager. The Skyhawks closed in, and the Panthers’ lead shrank to 46-38 with just over 4 minutes left in the game.
Allison Bearstail, Kelsey Mischel and Hall used the Panthers’ temporary loss of momentum to their advantage, closing the score gap to a 7 point Panther lead, 50-43 in the final minute of the game. The Rugby High gym came to life, and the crowd roared when the Skyhawks took possession of the ball. More free throws for the Panthers sealed their lead with just 30 seconds in the game, and a last-ditch timeout did nothing to help the Skyhawks. The Panthers once again gained control of the ball, and Stier kept it in her grasp as the final 10 seconds of the game ticked away to a 52-43 Rugby win.
RHS Coach Jen Brossart said of the win, “They just kept their eyes on the big girl (Hall), and they took the time out and got possession of the ball.”
“Overall, I think I was happy with them, considering they had a loss Saturday,” Brossart added. “These girls bounced back. Sometimes, that doesn’t happen, but it was nice to see them get back to work.”
Brossart described Four Winds/Minnewaukan as a “tough team; they can shoot the lights out, especially on their home court. They had the home court advantage. But 26 turnovers? That’s not going to win us many ball games. And if we can play a game with 26 turnovers and still lose by 6? We had a lot of opportunities to win that game. So lesson learned. You’ve got to take care of the basket and hopefully you’ll be back on track.”
Although the Lady Panthers lost to Four Winds by only 6 points, Brossart said, “Close only counts in horseshoes. We’ve got to watch those turnovers, because that’s not like us. We’ve got to come ready to play, and we did tonight against this Shiloh Christian team.”
Brooke Blessum was the top scorer for the Lady Panthers with 18 points. Maria Blessum scored 11 points, and Stier scored 10. Hager totaled 8 points for the game, and Isabella McCabe scored 4 points. Sarah Blessum scored one point for the game.
Hall led the Skyhawks’ point total with 16 points, while Allison Bearstail totaled 8 points. Kelly totaled 6 points for the game, and Martin scored 5 points. Skyhawks Kennedy Walth and Mischel each scored 3 points, and Kaszady Bearstail scored 2 points for the game.
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