Emma Walch nailed a clutch three-point basket in the waning seconds of the game to help boost Litchfield to a 38-36 conference win over Vandalia.
Not only did the triple represent the game winner, it was Litchfield’s sole basket in the final eight minutes. The Lady Panthers held a slim four-point lead after three quarters and were outscored 5-3 in the deciding period.
But the three-point weapon is not something the Lady Panthers shy away from as they attempted 15 treys in the game and it was without hesitation that Walch squared herself to the basket, let it fly and found nothing but net.
Thursday night’s home conference win was the first for Coach Rob Corso’s varsity squad (1-3) and the loss kept the Vandals winless at 0-4 in league play. Litchfield has four remaining South Central Conference games on their schedule, including road games at Pana and Staunton and home games with Carlinville and Hillsboro, the latter of which will be the final game of their 2021-22 campaign.
Good ball movement and an active zone defense helped the hosts put up 14 first quarter points, however Coach Michelle McNary’s Vandals answered with 12 of their own.
Neither team would establish more than a two-point lead until Laura Boston put the Lady Panthers up by three with a cleanup basket that gave Litchfield a 9-6 lead. That was brief, though, as Megan Lupton banked in a three-pointer for Vandalia to knot the score at nine at the 2:36 mark.
Carly Guinn slipped the Vandal defense for a layup that was answered by Zoe Satterthwaite who hit from long range and it was 12-11 Vandalia with 47 seconds left in the period. With 32 ticks on the clock, Elise Walch dialed up a triple and Litchfield led 14-12 at the end of the first period.
Although the offensive production of both teams lessened in the second period, Litchfield was able to hold the upper hand by virtue of the three ball as all nine of their second quarter points came from behind the arc, with Hailey Rentz, Carly Guinn and Elise Walch each finding the sweet spot.
In a relatively foul free game, Vandalia added two of their six points in the quarter at the free-throw line from Shelby Bowles and Anna Forbes while Katie Eckhardt and Forbes also contributed two-point field goals and the Vandals halftime deficit was five.
Each team was able to recapture an offensive tempo in the third quarter and in the early stages of the period, Hailey Rentz extended the Litchfield lead to eight after converting a basket and one. Lupton’s teardrop cut the Panther lead to six but a steal by Lily Braasch and a feed to Elise Walch resulted in a layup and a repeat of the Lady Panther eight point lead. Satterthwaite and Elise Walch would exchange baskets with a three and a two respectively and Litchfield held a 30-23 lead at the 5:44 mark.
The next four points were captured off Litchfield turnovers as baskets from Bella Austin and Anna Forbes cut the Panther lead to three. A steal by Carly Guinn and subsequent layup boosted Litchfield’s lead back to five at the 3:31 mark, but Austin came up big again with a turn around jumper and the Vandals were down by three.
At the 2:03 mark, Guinn connected for a triple that was countered by a basket from Forbes and the quarter ended 35-31 in favor of Litchfield.
The basket lid virtually closed for Litchfield in the fourth quarter while Anna Forbes was the only Vandal who could find the bottom of the net. Forbes’ basket at the 3:52 mark cut the Panther lead to two, she tied the score at 35 with 2:58 left and gave Vandalia a 36-35 lead after canning one of two free throws.
Vandalia’s Katie Eckhardt missed the front end of a one-and-one with 24 seconds left. Litchfield rebounded the miss, found Walch on the right side of the basket and she launched the trey that found nothing but the bottom of the net as the Panther faithful celebrated the 38-36 win.
In team statistics, Litchfield converted 12-of-43 shots from the floor, went 6-for-15 from behind the arc, 2-for-3 from the free-throw line, pulled down six offensive and 17 defensive rebounds and recorded 13 assists.
Individually, freshman Elise Walch finished the game as Litchfield’s scoring leader with 12 points, including two of the team’s six three-pointers. Walch also had four defensive rebounds, two steals and two assists.
Older sister Emma Walch dropped in five points, including the game winner, grabbed seven defensive rebounds and had a steal.
Carly Guinn aced two treys and finished the night with 10 points, two rebounds, four steals and four assists. Hailey Rentz accounted for Litchfield’s other three-pointer. Rentz also held distinction of being the only Lady Panther who would step to the charity stripe and she was good for two of three tosses. Rentz finished the game with seven points, five rebounds, four steals and four assists. Laura Boston had five points, three rebounds, two steals and three assists.
Next up for the Lady Panthers is a conference match-up with Carlinville on Thursday, Jan. 13.
Jan. 6 at Litchfield
Litchfield 14 9 12 3 38
Vandalia 12 6 13 5 36
Litchfield (38) - Elise Walch 12, Carly Guinn 10, Hailey Rentz 7, Emma Walch 5, Laura Boston 4. Totals: 12 (2-3) 38.
Vandalia (36) - Anna Forbes 14, Megan Lupton 7, Bella Austin 6, Zoe Satterthwaite 6, Katie Eckhardt 2, Shelby Bowles 1. Totals: 15 (3-7) 36.
Three-point field goals: Litchfield 6 (El. Walch 2, Guinn 2, Rentz 1, Em. Walch 1); Vandalia 3 (Satterthwaite 2, Lupton 1).
Records: Litchfield (4-16, 1-3); Vandalia (4-11, 0-4).
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