Trailing 36-28 in the fourth quarter, the Litchfield Lady Panthers went on an 8-0 run to tie the score at 36 and send the game in to overtime at Piasa Southwestern Thursday evening, Jan. 30. But after jumping ahead in the four-minute extension, the Birds spread it out and the free-throw line became their best friend as Litchfield was forced to foul for possession and the green and gold feasted for 6-of-10 from the charity stripe to preserve the 46-38 win.
"The difference between the way we played tonight and our play in the tournament game on Nov. 30 was like day and night," Litchfield Coach Rob Corso said. "We played good basketball tonight but we just couldn't get the shots to fall when we needed them."
The Lady Panthers were 1-of-7 in the overtime period and finished the night shooting 31 percent from the floor and 22 percent from beyond the arc.
Corso's reference to the Nov. 30 game related to a 30-point lopsided defeat the Lady Birds laid on them in the 21st Annual Thanksgiving Round Robin Tournament at Litchfield High School. Coach Steve Wooley's Piasa Birds hoisted the championship trophy that night and did so in perfect fashion as they finished the five-team round robin with a 4-0 record. They defeated Nokomis by 20 points, Staunton by 35, Carlyle by 43 and Litchfield by 30.
Thursday night's win represented their 21st of the season against just nine losses and their sixth conference win with just three blemishes.
In the first quarter of the game at Southwestern, Cara Pence and Josie Bouillon traded three's and the score remained tight until Rylee Smith extended the 11-10 Piasa lead to 14-10 and Hopkins would add another bucket to close out the scoring. Becky Painter and Cara Pence would also bag three's for the Panthers.
Scoring for both teams dipped in the second quarter as the Lady Panther defense pressured the Birds for six turnovers and they went one for five from the field.
Hopkins sank the only field goal with the other two points coming at the free-throw line from Hopkins and Smith. Litchfield's eight second quarter points belonged to Cara Pence with four and two apiece from Jackson and Painter. The Piasa lead was a mere two points at the half, 20-18.
Piasa would outscore Litchfield in the third quarter but it was by a thin 7-6 margin as Litchfield stayed in their rear view mirror and trailed by three headed into the fourth period.
Diamond hit a three in the period and Boden added a basket while Painter accounted for a single point from the free-throw line. Piasa's scoring came off the hands of Smith with a three and Gallaher and Hopkins with two point baskets.
Painter opened the scoring in the fourth but it was quickly answered by Annie Gallaher. Maddie Diamond's two pointer drew the score to within one, 29-28 Piasa, and Smith's trey pushed their lead to 32-28. Boden's foul sent Addie Green to the free-throw line and she was good for both. Piasa would again benefit from the charity stripe as Senjan put Korrie Hopkins on the line and she was good for two more as the lead ballooned to 36-28.
The next eight points belonged to Painter as she buried two three-point field goals and added a deuce to knot the score at 36. Fouls became an issue however, as Painter was whistled for three personals in the period, the last of which sent Hopkins to the free-throw line but she missed the front end of the one and one and Litchfield grabbed the rebound. Litchfield had two more cracks at the basket but they did not fall and overtime came into play.
Smith put the Birds on top with an early basket and after a Painter miss from three, Green was fouled by Boden and converted both to give the Southwestern a 40-36 lead that was cut into by Boden's score. But fouls began to pile up for the Panthers and the basket lid closed on their last five attempts before the final buzzer. Piasa added four more points at the free-throw line and got a basket from Hopkins as the game ended 46-38 in favor of the Birds.
Becky Painter finished the game as scoring leader for the Panthers with 16 points, 10 of which were scored in the critical fourth quarter. Cara Pence had nine points and grabbed 15 of her team's 26 rebounds. Sixes were wild for the junior forward as she had six steals, assists and points in the paint.
Next up for the Panthers is a home game tonight, Feb. 3, against North Mac. In their last home game of season on Thursday, the Panthers will honor their three seniors, Emily Senjan, Carly Boden and Carson Jackson before closing out regular season play on Saturday at Hardin Calhoun.
January 30 at Piasa
Southwestern 16 4 7 9 10 46
Litchfield 10 8 6 12 2 38
Southwestern (46) - Rylee Smith 17, Korrie Hopkins 14, Josie Bouillon 5, Annie Gallaher 5, Addie Green 2, Natalie Keith 2, Whitney Keith 1. Totals: 14-29 14-26 46.
Litchfield (38) - Becky Painter 16, Cara Pence 9, Carly Boden 6, Maddie Diamond 5, Carson Jackson 2. Totals: 16-51 1-2 38.
Three-point field goals: Southwestern 4-9 (Smith 3, Bouillon 1); Litchfield 5-23 (Painter 3, Diamond 1, Pence 1).
Records: Piasa SW (21-9, 6-3); Litchfield (13-12, 2-5).
Ballin' for a Cure was the theme of Saturday afternoon's South Central Conference match-up between the home school Gillespie Miners and the Litchfield Lady Panthers.
Players from each team donned pink and white uniforms and prior to the tip-off of the varsity game, cancer survivors and those currently battling cancer who were in attendance were invited down to the gym floor where they were introduced and then recognized with a "pink" gift bag presented by members of the Miners' basketball team.
The recognition drew a standing ovation from the crowd. In keeping with the theme, a lively auction for two pink basketballs that had been signed by the players from each team elicited over $1100 for the cause.
Upon completion of the festivities it was time to play basketball and the Miners were in it to win it as they opened up a 13-point first quarter lead that grew to 17 at the half using defensive pressure and the ability to escape the Panther defense and score in the paint. Gillespie would finish the game with 32 points scored inside the key.
After controlling the tip, Litchfield's Becky Painter gave the Panthers an early 2-0 lead but Shelby Taylor blew by the interior Panther defense and scored on a layup to tie it. Painter would strike again from beyond the arc but the next four points belonged to Keaton Link as the 5'9" junior forward netted four and the Miners led 6-5 with 3:47 left in the quarter.
The Miners then reeled off 12 unanswered points while the Panthers couldn't get one to fall and found themselves in a 13-point hole with just eight minutes in the books.
Gillespie's Grace Bertolino opened the second period with a three pointer and the Miners would pad their lead with an additional four points before Carly Boden would break the scoring drought and add Litchfield's first points of the period with 3:57 left. Trailing 29-7, Cara Pence cut into the lead with a basket that was offset by a two pointer from MacKenzie Mix and it was 31-9. With 34 seconds to go, Maddie Diamond hit a short jumper and the quarter ended with a bomb from Painter, her second in the half.
Trailing by 17, Coach Rob Corso's crew needed a big third quarter but it wasn't there as the Miners outscored their guests 14-3. Gillespie's defensive pressure took its toll in the period as the Panthers repeatedly gave up possession and had little opportunity to add to their point total. Carly Boden's inside score and Emily Senjan's free throw were the only points scored while the Miners got four layups from Mix, four points from Shelby Taylor and two free throws from Sydney Bires.
With the score reading 45-17 at the end of three, Gillespie needed just two points to enable the continuous clock but Litchfield's Cara Pence put that notion to rest at the beginning of the fourth quarter as she dropped in a three but it was matched by Mix and at 5:34 Emily Schmidt bagged two charity tosses and boosted the Miner lead to 30. Pence would strike again from beyond the arc and Hailey Rentz sank a free throw to round out Litchfield's seven quarter points. Bertolino also added a trey and Emily Schmidt scored two from the free throw line as Gillespie edged their guests 8-7 and closed out a 53-24 win.
Litchfield shot 28 percent from the field and 22 percent from the free throw line. Cara Pence and Becky Painter led their team in scoring with eight points apiece. Pence went 1-for-4 in two-point baskets and was 2-for-2 from beyond the arc. She also collected eight rebounds and four assists. Painter's contribution was just as productive as she converted 1-of-3 two point baskets and 2-of-5 from three point range. She grabbed eight caroms and the junior duo recorded ten of the team's 12 defensive steals. The Panthers had 18 rebounds on the defensive side and six on the offensive.
The Miners shot 47 percent from the field and 64 percent from the free throw line. They collected 29 rebounds and scored 28 points off of Litchfield turnovers. MacKenzie Mix led her team with 13 points followed closely by Grace Bertolino with 11 and Keaton Link with 10.
The junior Miners defeated the Panthers 26-19.
Next up for the Panthers is a home game tonight against North Mac. In their last home game of season on Thursday, the Panthers will honor their three seniors, Emily Senjan, Carly Boden and Carson Jackson before closing out regular season play on Saturday at Hardin-Calhoun.
February 1 at Gillespie
Gillespie 18 13 14 8 53
Litchfield 5 9 3 7 24
Gillespie (53) - MacKenzy Mix 13, Grace Bertolino 11, Shelby Taylor 10, Keaton Link 10, Madison Niemeyer 4, Sydney Bires 2, Emily Schmidt 2, Hannah Barrett 1. Totals: 21-45 2-9 53.
Litchfield (24) - Cara Pene 8, Becky Painter 8, Carly Boden 4, Maddie Diamond 2, Emily Senjan 1. Totals: 9-32 2-9 24.
Three-point field goals: Gillespie 4 (Bertolino 3, Mix 1); Litchfield 4 (Painter 2, Pence 2).
Records: Gillespie (12-11, 3-4); Litchfield (13-13, 2-6).