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Panthers Do Not Disappoint
J. C. Tilton

Going into Fridays game were two Panther teams that seemed headed in opposite directions. North has struggled early and has yet to win a game, while South has rebounded from their opening loss and been on a winning streak. North has had problems scoring, but South has been living off of the three point shot and has been piling on the points in their last few games. A casual observer would easily give the nod to South, but when these teams meet, records, injuries, and opinions do not matter. Fans that traveled to the South gym were not disappointed. It was definitely a battle from start to finish, with both coaches reaching into their bag of tricks to keep the other team off balance. And players who competed with fierceness and intensity - the bodies were flying after loose balls, particularly in the 4th quarter.

Initially South popped a couple of shots and the South fans relaxed expecting another offensive performance. But North seemed to be closing out well and maybe South used up all their shots in the earlier games, but in any event the South shooters grew cold. North used a different offensive tactic in the first half - and got some points off of transition. Running the court caught the South guards napping a few times in the first quarter and North got some easy buckets before they adjusted. So as South cooled down, North heated up. South briefly had a 5-2 lead in the opening minutes, but at the end of the first quarter the score was 20-11 in favor of TCN. North's Dan Baumbarger was hot at this point - scoring 10 point of his game high 20 points and Jacob Biser chipped in a couple of baskets as well. Although they were shooting well from the field, North did miss some foul shots in this quarter - would the lost points come back to haunt them?

South adjusted their defense in the second quarter and slowed the pace of North's scoring. They also switched their offensive look sending cutters thru the North defense. This quarter the defenses asserted themselves. South would score 9, and North only 8. So the game would remain in North's hands for the time being with a 28-20 halftime lead.

South used several defensive looks and generally kept a spy on the North offensive threat, Baumbarger. South kept trying to hit shots from downtown, but they were not dropping. The alternative was to drive to the hoop and lay it in or shoot a pull up jumper. In big games a team needs for a player to step it up down the stretch. South's Dale Spitler is known for his three point shot, but in the last half against North he showed some diversity and poise as he began to score 2 points at a time. Most of his 16 points were scored late in the third and the fourth quarters, leading the South drive to catch North. The South defense stepped it up as well - allowing only 4 points to be scored in the third by North's Ryan Haines. So as the teams entered the last quarter, North had a precarious lead 32-30.

North desperately needed some offense. Ethan Blankenship responded with 7 points in the 4th quarter. Dale Spitler answered the call for South, keeping the team on the heels of North as time ticked down. J. T. Stone got South within 1 of North when he hit from the field with a little over a minute left to play. On the next TVS possession Corey Bassler was fouled and calmly sunk both free throws to give TVS their first lead since way early in the first quarter. North had foul trouble down the stretch, they had accumulated 9 to this point in the half while South only had 1. In the last minute it would be double bonus. Now it became a game of keep away as South fought to control the ball in the waning seconds and North aggressively went after it. South managed the game well from here, getting an easy basket and a free throw to extend their lead and win 45-41.

South coach Tony Augspurger breathed a sigh of relief, “I told the players before the game that although they lost their first two, North is always up for this game. It is important for us to get off to a good start. We didn't do that at all, we came out flat. They were running the floor and playing inspired. Baumbarger played great in the first quarter. We were looking shell shocked and just played horribly. From the second quarter on we played a lot better defensively. We contested shots better. We mixed things up defensively to keep them off balance.”

Coach Augspurger pointed out some keys to the game, “Corey Bassler did a good job for us. He has not scored as much offensively, he is unselfish - almost to a fault. But he hit a couple of key shots for us and battled on the boards. I also thought that Dale [Spitler] hit some tough shots in the lane in the fourth quarter when we were struggling to score. His experience helped in the last quarter, he brings a calming effect to the team. J. T. Stone, our sophomore back up center did a great job for us. We needed some rebounding and defense, I thought well let's throw the linebacker out there and see what happens.” He went on to tip his hat to the North team, “I thought that North played really really well, they played with a lot of guts and a lot of heart. In a lot of ways they outplayed us.”

Coach Waggoner was asked for his post game comments, “We did a good job with transition in the first quarter. We rebounded extremely well in the first half. I thought we defended pretty well. In the second half several things happened - one, we didn't rebound as well, South did a good job with their diamond and one, they didn't allow Dan Baumbarger to get the ball. And we didn't do a good job of getting the ball to Dan. We became frustrated and didn't move as much. We got some good looks but didn't hit some shots. On the other hand, they did a good of getting Spitler the ball, and he did a good job shooting it.” When asked about Mitch Heltsley, Coach Waggoner replied that he is due to be released soon, but he may need to wear some sort of hand protection which would limit his effectiveness.

Scoring: North - Baumbarger 20, Haines 6, Blankenship 11, Biser 4 South - C. Bassler 9, Spitler 16, Rhemert 1, W. Bassler 8, Dawson 5, Summers 2, Stone 4. Comments:

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