With a record of 0-5 and averaging 29.8 points per game, on the outside, the Litchfield High School boys basketball team was struggling this season. On the inside though, Coach Drew Logan and the Purple Panthers were building and growing quickly.
On Monday night, March 1, the young Panthers would show how quickly they have been improving as they would put together a solid, complete ball game, claiming their first victory of the season by defeating the Southwestern Piasa Birds 61-59 in overtime.
In the opening minutes of the contest the Panthers would find themselves in trouble as the Piasa Birds shot out of the gate on a 7-0 run.
Litchfield would not be phased as they would begin to chip away at the early lead. With baskets from Blake McGill and Bryce Hires, the Panthers would narrow the Piasa Birds’ lead to 8-4, only to have Southwestern quickly return the favor and increase the lead to 12-4.
Again, Litchfield would not go away as they would put together a 10-0 run that would last the remaining minutes of the opening quarter. The late run by Litchfield would give the Panthers a 14-12 lead after one quarter.
Another slow start to open a quarter would find Litchfield surrendering their lead to Southwestern, as the Piasa Birds would start the second on an 8-2 run. The early run would give the visiting squad a 20-16 lead.
Litchfield would claw their way right back into the contest as Jordan Harris and Jace Stewart added four points to the scoreboard, tying the contest at 20.
Southwestern would put the finishing touches on the half as they would score the last five points of the second quarter, giving the Piasa Birds a 25-20 lead at the half. Litchfield would have six scorers in the half and would be led by Jace Stewart’s six points.
After two slow starts to the first two quarters, Coach Logan’s boys came out with a vengeance in the third quarter. Litchfield would outscore Southwestern 11-6 to start the second half, tying the contest at 31.
In the final minutes of the quarter both teams would exchange baskets as Southwestern built a 37-33 lead. A late basket from Blake McGill would narrow that lead to 37-36. Southwestern would cap the quarter off with the final basket, giving them a 39-36 lead after three quarters of action.
In the final frame neither team would be able to pull away from the other as several lead changes would be seen throughout the quarter. Litchfield would build their biggest lead late in the contest, when Jace Stewart connected on his only basket of the quarter. Stewart’s eighth point of the contest would give the Panthers a 51-46 lead with around a minute to play.
Southwestern would not allow Litchfield to claim their first victory quite yet as they would put in the next six points, giving them a 52-51 lead with only a few ticks on the board.
Keenan Powell would come up clutch for Litchfield though, as he would connect on a free throw before the buzzer would sound, tying the contest at 52 points and sending it into an extra frame.
In the extra period it would be the Jace Stewart Show as he connected on seven points including the biggest of his young career. After Stewart nailed four free throws, Carson Saathoff would connect on a big basket late in the extra period to give the Panthers a 58-56 lead.
Southwestern would connect on a three-point basket, giving them a 59-58 lead late in the contest. Stewart would then take over the show as he would take a drive down the right side of the lane, putting up a contested layup that would result in a foul.
Prior to the foul Stewart’s basket would touch the bottom of the net giving the Panthers a 60-59 lead. Stewart would connect on the end of the old-fashion three-point play to give the Panthers a 61-59 lead and their first win of the season.
Stewart’s performance in the overtime period would give him a season-high and team-leading 15 points in the contest. The win would move Litchfield to 1-5 overall and 1-4 in the SCC, Southwestern would drop to 3-7 overall and 2-4 in the SCC.
March 1 at Litchfield
Southwestern 12 13 14 13 7 59
Litchfield 14 6 16 16 9 61
Southwestern (59) - Addis Moore 25, Cale Schuchman 12, Brady Salzman 9, Carson Cooley 6, Charlie Darr 5, Lane Gage 2. Totals: 22 9-25 59.
Litchfield (61) - Jace Stewart 15, Carson Saathoff 10, Blake McGill 10, Bryce Hires 9, Keenan Powell 8, Jordan Harris 4, Gavn Thimsen 3, Chase Hires. Totals: 22 12-22 61.
Three-point field goals: Southwestern 6 (Schuchman 4, Darr 1, Salzman 1); Litchfield 5 (McGill 2, B. Hires 1, Powell 1, Stewart 1).
Records: Litchfield (1-5, 1-4); Southwestern (3-7, 2-4).