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With smaller roster, Panthers fall to Sky Hawks 71-88

By Sue Sitter - | Feb 6, 2021

Sue Sitter/PCT Panthers guard Warren Walker goes for a shot over the arms of Sky Hawks guard MaBahi Baker and others in Rugby’s Charlie Hanneman Gym Jan. 30.

With key players benched due to injuries or illness, a smaller than usual lineup of Rugby Panthers met the Shiloh Christian Sky Hawks in the second game of a basketball double-header Jan. 30 in Rugby’s Charlie Hanneman Gym.

The Panthers fell to the Sky Hawks, 71 to 88.

“We’re missing some guys,” Panthers Coach Mike Santjer said. “We’ve got a couple of injuries and one guy’s sick.”

Two forwards, senior Cole Slaubaugh and sophomore Brody Schneibel sat the game out due to injuries. Forward and senior Isaiah Bundy-Smith stayed home due to an illness.

“I’m more concerned with the injuries than the sickness, so hopefully, we can get those guys healthy and back on the team,” Santjer said.

Asked if the injuries were serious, Santjer answered, “We don’t know yet. We’re waiting on doctor appointments to see how bad they are.”

“If you looked at the rosters, we were outmanned a little bit tonight,” Santjer noted. “But the kids had heart to come out and battle tonight like they did. It was the best I’ve seen them battle and they didn’t shy away from anything. We’re super proud of the kids. I know the scoreboard probably doesn’t look great, but the kids battled as hard as they could and gave it everything they had.”

The Panthers made up for their smaller roster with extra aggression in the first quarter. Guard Warren Walker drove inside the lane to make good on three buckets before adding a three-pointer to the scoreboard. Guards Tim Mueller and Trey Welstad each landed a three pointer, with Welstad drawing a foul on one shot and making three of four bonus baskets. Forward Erik Foster swooshed two outside shots through the net for six points.

Sky Hawk center Joe Wanzek landed two three-pointers. His brother, Luke Wanzek made one as well, along with a rebound. Guard Khael Decoteau landed another distance shot for the Sky Hawks. Although Shiloh Christian brought a fierce game to Rugby, they trailed 24-26 in the first quarter.

The Panthers seemed in a good position to continue toward a win, but the Sky Hawks turned up the heat.

Sky Hawks forward Carter Englund, who stood 6 feet 6 inches, thundered down the court and past Panthers to penetrate the paint zone and draw another foul. However, Panthers stopped several of his shot attempts, and limited him to one bucket and one bonus point in the second quarter. Three pointers came from Wanzek’s brother, Luke, guards Kohl Blotske and Braiden Kuehn. Decoteau and guard MaBahi Baker each made two buckets.

Shiloh Christian scored 22 more points for the second quarter, while the Panthers fell behind, scoring only 10 points, thanks to Welstad, Walker and guard Kory Vetsch, who made good on two free throw attempts.

The Panthers 36-46 deficit grew in the third quarter, but Vetsch, Welstad and Walker put 16 more points on the board. The Sky Hawks managed only 17 points of their own for the quarter.

With a 63-52 Sky Hawks lead at the beginning of the fourth quarter, fans held hope for five or six more Panthers baskets in the final eight minutes of the game.

The Panthers scored 19 points as guard Tim Mueller landed two inside the lane along with a three-pointer. Sky Hawks kept pressure on Welstad and Walker, who each landed a bucket and drew fouls that led to bonus shots. A foul on Foster sent him to the free throw line as well. Welstad and Foster each made two of two bonus shots, while Walker landed one of two.

Meanwhile, the Sky Hawks moved through the court with increasing ease, sending Panthers to the floor as they fought for possession of the ball. Englund saw increased pressure from Panthers defenders and made two of four free throw attempts after sinking two buckets. With more distance shots landed by Decoteau, Baker and Joe Wanzek, the Sky Hawks put more distance between themselves and Rugby. The game ended with a total of 25 fourth quarter points for Shiloh Christian and an 88-71 win for the Sky Hawks.

Still, Santjer, after the game, said he was proud of his team.

“We know that the intensity and effort these guys gave tonight is there,” Santjer said. “So, we’re looking for some good things and trying to play for the end of the year, not necessarily right now.”

“Hopefully, we can fit in and everybody gets back and we’ll be ready to go later on,” Santjer added.

Santjer said of the Panthers’ place in District 11, “We only have one loss in the district. I’m not sure where we sit.”

“We’ve just got to take care of business moving on in the district. We’ve got two big ones next week. So, if we do that, we’ll see how everything pans out,” Santjer added.

Scoring leaders for the Panthers were: Walker, 26 points; Welstad, 19 pts; Foster, 13 pts; Mueller, 11 pts.; Vetsch, 2 pts.

Scoring leaders for the Sky Hawks were: Joe Wanzek, 19 points; Englund, 19 pts.; Decoteau, 15 pts.; Baker, 11 pts.; Luke Wanzek, 11 pts.; Blotske, 10 pts.; Kuehn, 3 pts.

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