To paraphrase an old hunting adage, sometimes you catch the Panther, but sometimes the Panther catches you. In a make-up, long anticipated game Wednesday evening, Dec. 22, the visiting Pana Panthers defeated Hillsboro’s varsity 66-55 in a contest that really wasn’t that close.
The Panthers used quickness and cunning to leap to a 16-2 lead before six minutes passed in the first quarter. Every shot Pana tried seemed to hit the mark while their defense either forced or gladly accepted Hillsboro turnovers. Unofficially, nine of the Toppers’ 20 turnovers occurred in the first eight decisive minutes. Devin Peebles and Brenden Schoonover each tallied six points in the early onslaught; it took two free throws by Drake Vogel to break the Toppers’ scoring draught. Gavin Matoush had Hillsboro’s only first quarter bucket (and it came off an offensive rebound), and Blaze Helton was two of two from the line in the last two minutes, but Pana’s lead was 13 when the buzzer sounded.
Pana’s an athletic team, and they had lost in Hillsboro in the first season of 2021 on a last second lay-up which gave Hillsboro the conference crown. It seemed as if pent-up revenge motivated the energetic early burst. It didn’t help when Vogel, Hillsboro’s leading scorer for the season thus far, picked up his second foul midway of the first quarter.
Hillsboro labored to cut the deficit to single digits, and they came close. Vogel had eight points in the second quarter, and the Topper defense held Pana to only six until senior guard Colin Schmitz rolled in a two-pointer in the last second of the half. The nine point lead was suddenly 11 again.
Schmitz had five points in the first half, but the even quicker Brenden Schoonover was the prime mover and shaker for the visitors as the second half began; thirteen of his team-high 22 came in the third quarter as he literally couldn’t miss–except for a free throw. He and his also-guard teammates stole passes, bumped bodies, and extended the lead to gigantic-like proportions again. By the end of Schoonover’s hot streak, the visitors were up by 19, 53-32.
Vogel, who had picked up foul #3 in the second quarter, was foul-free in the second half and sparkled as a rebounder and a ball handler (he finished with 23 points). Matoush worked for openings underneath in the last quarter, when he had seven points. The Toppers whittled the lead down to 10 late when Deklan Riggs found the range for two treys in the late going, but Schmitz sealed the deal with free throws as the Toppers had to foul the Panthers in hopes of drawing closer. Pana made 11 of 15 free throws down the stretch to foil that strategy.
Hillsboro shot 32% from the field (11 of 36 inside the arc; 6 of 18 from behind). Both Vogel and Matoush had 12 rebounds, giving each double-double statuss for the game. Christian and Jace Stewart each had two of the team’s seven assists, and Matoush had four of the seven team steals, Vogel blocked two shots, Matoush one.
Hillsboro won the junior varsity game 44-38. Riggs built his game-high 23 points on four treys. The Toppers jumped to an early lead, then held off a 27 point Panther second half. Two Topper freshmen, Nathan Schaake and Nathan Matoush, made their junior varsity debut for the Toppers.
The freshmen also played, dropping the opener of the three-game set against Pana 44-38. Hayden Blackwell had 11 for Pana; Nathan Matoush had 11 for Hillsboro.
December 22 at Hillsboro
Pana 19 8 26 13 66
Hillsboro 6 10 16 23 55
Pana (66) - Brendan Schoonover 22, Drew Hackler 14, Colin Schmitz 13, Kyle Kuhns 8, Max Lynch 6, Evan Hudlin 3.
Hillsboro (55) - Drake Vogel 23, Gavin Matoush 11, Blaze Helton 7, Deklan Riggs 6, Blaine Stewart 3, Will Christian 3, Jace Stewart 2. Totals: 17-54 15-18 55.
Three-point field goals: Pana 5 (Schmitz 2, Schoonover 1, Kuhns 1, Hudlin 1); Hillsboro 6 (Vogel 3, Riggs 2, B. Stewart 1).
Records: Pana (6-1,2-0); Hillsboro (5-5,1-1).
Pana JV 4 7 17 10 38
Hillsboro JV (2-3) 12 6 17 9 44
Hillsboro JV (44) - Deklan Riggs 23, Brayden Fowler 5, Mitchell Lowe 5, Nathan Matoush 5, Nathan Schaake 3, Dillon Devlin 2, Adrian Harston 1.
Pana FR 11 9 12 12 44
Hillsboro FR (0-3) 6 11 6 2 25
Hillsboro FR (25) - Nathan Matoush 11, Atticus Bertolino 4, Nathan Schaake 4, Drake McSperritt 4, Caleb Greenwood 2.
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