Panthers storm back to beat Hornets, claim sole possession of first in SIRR Mississippi

J.C. Moll scores the go-ahead bucket to give the Panthers the lead for the first time in Friday night's game at Nashville. (Doug Daniels video)

Dawson Yates led Pinckneyville with 16 points in their come-from-behind win over the Nashville Hornets. (Doug Daniels photo)

By Doug Daniels
1351sports.com / pinckneyvillesports.com

January 6, 2018

  (Nashville, Ill.) - Trailing by nine with just over eight minutes to play, the Panthers seemed poised to fall a game behind the Hornets in the SIRR Mississippi Division standings on Friday night in Nashville. But with roughly three seconds remaining on the clock in the third quarter, Pinckneyville's Dawson Yates buried a three-pointer that sparked a 22-6 run to close out the game, and PCHS escaped Assembly Hall with a thrilling 45-38 victory.
  "We settled down and kept them in front of us (in the second half)," said Panthers head coach Bob Waggoner. "In the first half they had a lot of post scoring because our guards were broke down to the middle. I thought we did a better job of finally settling down and really grinding it out, making them have to shoot some balls outside the lane."
  The Panthers trailed the entire game until just 3:38 remained in the contest. That's when Yates sank the second of two free throws to tie the game, and a little over a minute later, J.C. Moll dribbled up the floor, drove to the lane, drew contact, then put in a one-hander as part of a three-point play to put Pinckneyville on top 37-34.
  The Hornets cut it to one with two free throws by Bryson Bultman with 1:36 to go, then had two chances to take the lead after Panther turnovers, but came up empty. Moll made it a three-point game with just under a minute left by putting in two from the free throw line, then another missed opportunity by Nashville resulted in a fast-break layup by Devin Kitchen on a deep pass from Grant Jausel with 40 seconds remaining.

  Nashville's Jake Haley scored nearly uncontested seconds later, but Yates and Moll refused to miss at the line, and the Panthers came home with sole possession of first place in the conference with a 4-0 record. Pinckneyville held the Hornets to just 12 points in the second half.
  While most of the good news for the Panthers came in the fourth quarter, another key to their comeback was their performance at the end of the first three quarters. In addition to Yates' three at the end of the third period, Pinckneyville beat the game's first two buzzers as well.
  With 4.4 seconds to go in the first quarter, Kyle Luke completed a three-point play to end a 12-3 run by Nashville to start the game. Heading into the half, Grant Jausel attempted a three-pointer with time ticking down in the second quarter. The shot was off the mark, but Tyler Rice was there for the tip-in just before the horn sounded, cutting a seven-point Hornets lead down to 26-21.
  "(Scoring at the end of quarters) and making free throws was huge," Waggoner said. "We worked hard this week on end of quarter situations, and it really paid off for us."

  Free throw shooting played a huge factor for PCHS, not just late in the game, but from the opening tip. The Panthers made 18-of-21 at the line for 86%, and were 9-for-15 on two-point shots while enduring a rare off-night from downtown, where they made just 3-of-16 attempts.
  "We got great looks, they just weren't falling," said Waggoner. "They're going to make you shoot the ball from the perimeter. We changed our lineup a little bit, had another shooter on the floor, I thought that opened some things up for us, made it better for us to take the ball to the rim and to kick and to play inside-out. Overall, this is a three-possession game, it could have went either way. Just proud of our guys for finding a way to get stops when we needed to."
  Yates was the only Panther in double figures, scoring a team-high 16 points. Moll finished with 9, Rice 6, Jausel 5, Kitchen 4, Luke 3 and Tanner Spihlmann 2. The rebounding battle was even at 17 for each team, and both squads also took care of the ball for the most part, with Nashville turning it over just 8 times to Pinckneyville's 6.
  PCHS (14-1, 4-0) is back in action on Saturday at home against Vandalia.

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