The third time would not be the charm for the Purple Panthers on Wednesday, Feb. 20, as the Greenville Comets would hold on to defeat Litchfield 53-40 in the Class 2A Southwestern Regional.
This would be the third game in 2019 between these two schools, as the Comets would hold the Purple Panthers scoreless in the second quarter to help complete the three game sweep and end the Litchfield season.
In the opening minutes of the contest, Greenville would jump out ahead of Litchfield 5-0. A basket by Billy Beckham and a three-point basket by Sam Painter would put five points on the Purple Panthers' side of the scoreboard and tied the contest with just over four minutes to play in the first quarter. In the next minute and a half both teams would exchange baskets, giving each seven points apiece with 2:45 to play in the opening quarter.
The Comets would come alive in the final two minutes and break the seesaw battle with a 9-1 run. That run would finish the first quarter with the Comets in charge 16-8. Prior to the Comets' push, Litchfield's leading scorer Sam Painter, would pick up his third foul of the quarter.
The Comets would continue to extend their lead in the second quarter as they would be able to pile on 11 more points throughout. With Painter still on the bench with three fouls, the Comets' defense would also get in on the action as they would hold the Purple Panthers scoreless throughout the second frame.
Even though the Purple Panthers would struggle to put points on the board, their defense did put in a solid effort throughout the quarter. Litchfield would give up 11 points, but it could have been a lot worse with the struggles that happened on the offensive side of the court.
After a long second quarter, Litchfield would end the half trailing 27-8. Sam Painter would lead the Purple Panthers in scoring with three points in the first half.
Entering the second half, Painter would have some unfinished business left over as he would grab the first four points of the third quarter for Litchfield. The four points would be a spark for Litchfield but the Comets would continue to build on their 19 point lead as they would outscore the Purple Panthers 9-4 in the first three minutes. The five point difference would give the Comets a 36-12 lead with 5:10 left to play in the quarter.
Litchfield would still have some fight in them though, as they would continue to battle in the last half of the third quarter. Brady Bishop and Seth McGill would shrink the 24-point difference with five combined points, dropping the Comets lead to 36-17.
After two quick baskets by the Comets, the hot hand of Brady Bishop would give the Purple Panthers a spark at the end of the quarter. Bishop would bring the Greenville lead down to 17 before the quarter would end, adding eight points to his total. Still, the Comets would remain in the driver's seat after three quarters with a 42-25 lead.
Trailing by 17 entering what could be the last quarter of the season, most teams would have folded it up and just accepted the defeat. Instead the Purple Panthers began to fight and they would continue to fight even after the Comets would extend their lead to 20 in the first minute of the quarter.
Trailing 45-25, the Purple Panthers would have seven minutes to play in their season and the Litchfield squad would give everything they had. That effort would result in a 15-2 run that would last almost five minutes and would decrease the significant Comet lead back down to single digits.
Billy Beckham would connect on a field goal with 2:30 left to play to bring Litchfield within nine points of Greenville, 47-38. Sam Painter would put in his 17th point of the contest 15 seconds later as the Purple Panthers would now trail 47-40 with 2:15 to play in regulation.
In the last two minutes of regulation the Purple Panthers would not be able to add any more points to the scoreboard. The Comets would put the game away in those two minutes as they connected on 6-of-8 free throws to secure a 53-40 win.
The loss would end a successful Purple Panther campaign with 20 wins and 10 loses. Sam Painter would lead Litchfield in the scoring column with 20 points.
The Journal-News will have season stats and a recap of the 2018-19 year in a future edition.
February 20 at Piasa
Class 2A Southwestern Regional
Litchfield 8 0 17 15 - 40
Greenville 16 11 15 11 - 53
Litchfield (40) - Sam Painter 20, Brady Bishop 8, Billy Beckham 7, Alex Fischer 2, Ethan Washburn 2, Austin Niehaus 1. Totals: 14 3-4 40.
Greenville (53) - Brock Nelson 18, Chad Stearns 14, Drew Frey 7, Isaac Green 7, Kaleb Ephron 5, Hunter Gray 2. Totals: 19 10-12 53.
Three-point field goals: Litchfield 6 (Painter 3, Bishop 2, Beckham 1); Greenville 5 (Nelson 4, Ephron 1).
Records: Litchfield (20-10); Greenville (18-11).