The Purple Panthers entered the 2020 regional in familiar territory against an unfamiliar opponent as Litchfield would battle Breese Central in the Gillespie Regional.
The Central Cougars, who entered as the fourth seed with a 14-17 overall record, would handle the 11th seed Litchfield with a 72-28 victory. The loss would end the Litchfield season with a 10-20 overall record.
Even though the Cougars would enter with a below .500 record their losses would come from 13 teams who would hold a combined record of 252-120.
Early and often the Cougars would show why they were ranked fourth in the regional. Their speed and sharp shooting would be too much for the Purple Panthers.
The Cougars would get on the board first in the contest when Nicholas Warnecke connected on a three-point basket.
The Purple Panthers would respond when Brady Bishop took the ball to hole on the left side of the court. Bishop would come up short on the field goal attempt but would be fouled while taking the attempt. Bishop would make the most of his trip to the charity stripe as he connected on both free throws.
Litchfield would not be able to connect on their first field goal until late in the first quarter when Austin Niehaus scored. Niehaus’ basket would stop an 11-0 run and would make the score 14-4 in favor of the Central Cougars.
In the final minutes of the first quarter, the Cougars would add five more points to their total and Brady Bishop would connect on a three-point field goal as Breese Central would hold a 19-7 lead.
In the first quarter the Cougars would knock down 73 percent of their shots from the field and would miss only two two-point field goal attempts.
The second quarter would almost be a repeat of the first quarter as the Cougars would continue to have a hot hand. Holding a 12-point lead, the Cougars would increase that lead to 26 points as they would outscore the Purple Panthers 16-2. Blaine Stewart would connect on the lone field goal in that run as Litchfield would now trail 35-9 late in the first half.
The Purple Panthers would get a late basket from Anthony Boston and Brady Bishop would tap out the Litchfield scoring with a late three-point basket as Litchfield would trail 37-14 at the half. The Cougars, who had impressive shooting stats in the first quarter, would continue that success in the second quarter as they would again only miss two shots from inside the arc and would finish the half shooting 76 percent from that location.
Nicholas Warnecke would lead all scorers in the first half with 11 points, nine coming in the first quarter. Brady Bishop would lead the Purple Panthers with seven points.
Looking to respond to the impressive first half challenge by the Cougars, the Purple Panthers had a big hill to climb in the second half. Anthony Boston would get Litchfield off on the right foot as he connected on the first basket of the half.
After a three-point basket by Breese Central, Boston would connect on another field goal as Litchfield trailed 40-18. The Cougars would add four more points before Litchfield would knock down another basket.
This time Austin Niehaus would put in a three-point basket, narrowing the Cougars’ lead to 44-21. Niehaus’ basket would be the last for Litchfield until late in the quarter. The Cougars, on the other hand, would add 14 points to their total. Brady Bishop would finish the quarter off with two field goals as the Cougars would hold a 60-25 lead after three quarters of action.
In the final frame, the Purple Panthers would play with pride, but the Cougars would not allow them to put together any chances of a come back. The Cougars would outscore the Purple Panthers 12-3 in the final frame. Cameron Crow would put in two of the three points and John Corso would add a free throw in his final quarter of action.
Breese Central would move on to the semifinal contest as they would walk away with a 72-28 victory.
Warnecke would lead the Cougars with 20 points as they would end the contest shooting 71 percent from inside the arc, only missing ten shots throughout the contest. Not only did the Cougars carry a hot hand, they would also show a lot of speed as they would outscore Litchfield 21-0 in transition points.
Brady Bishop would lead the Purple Panthers in scoring with 12 points. The loss would be the last for four seniors as Brady Bishop, Anthony Boston, John Corso and Austin Niehaus will leave their blood, sweat and tears behind on their jersey and walk away to allow a new set of Purple Panthers to take over the show.
Litchfield ended their season with a 10-20 mark, an impressive win total after losing their leading scorer from last season due to graduation and their returning leading scorer would be missed through three-quarters of the season due to injury.
Litchfield will have some holes to fill throughout the offseason but look for another exciting and competitive season from Coach Drew Logan’s crew next season.
February 25 at Gillespie
Class 2A Gillespie Regional
Litchfield 7 7 11 3 28
Central 19 18 23 12 72
Litchfield (28) - Brady Bishop 12, Anthony Boston 6, Austin Niehaus 5, Cameron Crow 2, Blaine Stewart 2, John Corso 1. Totals: 10 5-6 28.
Breese Central (72) - Nicholas Warnecke 20, Brady Moore 14, Parker Loepker 10, Bradon Thomas 8, Shane Becker 4, Nate Rakers 4, Luke Strubhart 4, Jackson Haag 3, Drew Rakers 2. Totals: 31 4-4 72.
Three-point field goals: Litchfield 3 (Bishop 2, Niehaus 1); Breese Central 6 (Warnecke 3, Moore 2, Haag 1).
Records: Litchfield (10-20); Breese Central (15-17).