Free throws prove costly for Panthers in double-OT loss to Meridian at BIT

Dawson Yates led four Panthers in double figures with 20 points. (Doug Daniels Photos)

By Doug Daniels
1351sports.com / pinckneyvillesports.com

January 20, 2018

  (Benton, Ill.) - After going a perfect 12-for-12 on free throws in the first three quarters, Pinckneyville missed 10 of 17 at the line in the fourth quarter and two overtime periods, allowing Meridian to hand the Panthers their second loss of the season on Friday night at the Benton Invitational Tournament, 68-66.
  "Lots of opportunities," said PCHS head coach Bob Waggoner. "You've got to put them in the basket, and we didn't put them in the basket. You have to give Meridian credit. They hit a three at the end of regulation, then he hit a tough shot there at the end to score the game-winner. They played a good ball game, I thought we played a pretty good ball game too."
  The Panthers had a three-point lead with 1:09 to play in the second overtime, but missed four foul shots the rest of the way, which enabled Meridian's Darnell Lowe to hit the game-winner with three seconds left on the clock. The Panthers couldn't get a clean look after a timeout, and the Bobcats set up a showdown with Benton on Saturday morning between the two remaining unbeatens at the BIT.
  The two squads played to a stalemate through one quarter of action at 16-16, and the Bobcats pounced in front midway through the second when a three-point play by Lowe made it 27-22 Meridian. But the Panthers exploded in the final 4:03 of the half, beginning with a three-pointer from Devin Kitchen that started a 13-0 run into the break that put Pinckneyville up 35-27.
  "They wore down, we got them tired, we took the lead," Waggoner said, "but we're not cutting hard, we're not putting our head in the rim. We want to stand. We have certain guys that want to not do as much when they got tired. We've got to get some extended minutes out of people and get them to play a little bit longer."
  The run continued momentarily in the third quarter when Dawson Yates gave PCHS their biggest lead of the night with his three to make it 38-27, but Meridian would claw their way back into it.

  Threes by Ja'Quan Jones and Eddie Robertson helped close the gap to three at the end of the third, then Lowe tied it up with another three-point play just 15 seconds into the fourth quarter. At that point in the ball game, neither team had missed a free throw, but over the course of the next 45 seconds, the Panthers would miss the front end of three one-and-one opportunities that would come back to haunt them later.
  PCHS got the lead back, but continued to struggle at the foul line, making one-of-two on their next two trips. Grant Jausel was finally able to hit a pair at the line with 20.1 seconds to go to give Pinckneyville a 59-56 lead, but Meridian's Norris Young sent the game to overtime with a three before the final horn of the fourth quarter.
  With the score knotted at 61-61, the Panthers rebounded a miss by the Bobcats and elected to run more than half of the four-minute OT's clock off before firing up a final shot, but missed, sending the game into double overtime.
  Two buckets from Moll in OT-2 helped the Panthers to a 66-63 lead with 1:55 to go, and a traveling violation gave the ball back to Pinckneyville with 1:37 remaining, but Kyle Luke and Moll both went 0-for-2 at the line trying to seal the deal, and Meridian fought back in front with Lowe's three-point play with 3 seconds to go being the final dagger.
  "We had control of the game, we just didn't finish the deal," said Waggoner. "They had some guys hit some shots that we didn't know they could make as many as they did, and we didn't contest them early. They did a nice job. We didn't pressure real well. We decided we were going to play them half court and make them earn some things, but we didn't deny passes and they kind of put the ball where they wanted."
  Yates led four Panthers in double figures with 20 points. Jausel had 14, Moll 11, Tanner Spihlmann 10, Luke 7 and Kitchen 4. Spihlmann led PCHS in rebounds, grabbing 14 of the team's 26.
  Pinckneyville (18-2, 2-1 at BIT) will have to get some help from tournament host Benton if they hope to get a share of the championship. Should the Rangers defeat the Bobcats in the morning session on Saturday, and the Panthers take care of business against Hamilton County at 1:00 p.m., Pinckneyville and Benton would play with at least a share of the tournament crown on the line in the BIT finale at 8:30 p.m.

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