BY ALEX GRUBERMAN WEEKLY REPORTER
After finishing with a 17-11 record in a tough SWC conference, the Lady Panthers secured a playoff spot in the Class 4A Springfield Regional. They would face a familiar opponent in the first round, Glenwood. The Lady Panthers opened the season against Glenwood and fell to them 49-40. The Lady Panthers would look for some revenge on Glenwood, but had to be careful because if they fell to them again, they would be out of the Class 4A Springfield Regional.
In a back and forth battle, the Lady Panthers avenged their season-opening loss to Glenwood by ending the Titans’ season with a 63-47 win at Willard Duey Gymnasium. The Lady Panthers held on to a large lead, but the Titans went on a 10-2 run to cut the deficit.
“It is hard, but it shouldn’t be,” Coach Ryan Massey said about staying focused with a lead. “We have to have a killer instinct. When we have someone on the ropes, we have to finish them.”
Senior Marta Durk led the Panthers with 22 points, and in the latter part of the game, she rarely missed. She ended the night 9 of 11 at the free-throw line and 6 of 7 from the field. She recorded 14 of her 22 points in the second half. While Durk was on fire, it seemed like all Glenwood did was miss. The Titans missed 46-60 shots, including 18 of 23 three-pointers.
“Defensively, we were very good,” Massey said. “I could not be more pleased with our defensive effort and our half-court defense.”
The next test for the Lady Panthers would be to face a tough Springfield Senators team, who finished the season with a record of 26-4. Could the Lady Panthers pull off an upset against Springfield and win the Class 4A Springfield Regional?
Springfield would win the opening tip off and hit a three-pointer right off the bat. They would later add a two-point basket to take an early 5-0 run. But the Lady Panthers would go on a 5-0 run too and tie the game back up. Both teams traded baskets in the first quarter, but Springfield would go into the second quarter with a 15-12 lead. In the second quarter, it was a back and forth battle on who had the lead. It would seem like Springfield had the advantage, but then here came the Lady Panthers either tying the game or taking a small lead. As the buzzer went off for halftime, the Lady Panthers lead 28-26.
The Lady Panthers started with the ball to start the second half and quickly took advantage sinking two baskets to extend their lead. At one point in the game, the Lady Panthers had a five-point lead over Springfield, but Springfield went on a 11-0 run to close out the third period and regained the lead, 42-36.
The Lady Panthers weren’t giving up quite yet. They hit some key three’s and cut the deficit down to two. Just when you thought the momentum was swinging in favor of the Lady Panthers, Springfield shooters started warming up and making big shots. O’Fallon wasn’t done yet as they battled back once again cutting the deficit down to five, but with little time left in the game the Lady Panthers had to make a move.
In the end, Springfield made key free throws that would close the game out. Springfield would defeat O’Fallon, 63-57.
“At the beginning of the season, we were unsure what we were going to accomplish this season. The loss of Celeste to injury was tough, but we moved on. Our seniors picked up their games throughout the season. We have some adjustments to make next season, but we will be ready to contend again,” Massey said after the game.