by Riley Hicks
The Starr’s Mill Panthers walked onto Whitewater’s court Friday night looking to kick off 2018 on the right track by capturing much-needed region victories. After a dominating performance from the girls and a tough start from the boys, the Panthers swept the Wildcats to keep pace in the new year.
The Lady Panthers made quick work of the Wildcats, running away with the game by a score of 61-40.
“I am very pleased with that performance, it was a great win,” said head coach Emily Sweeney. “They needed to jump out and get a lead early and keep it so we didn’t have to stress too much.”
Getting a lead didn’t take long for the Panthers as Ashtyn Lally hit a quick 3-pointer for the first points of the game. The game would belong to Lally as she racked up 21 points on 5-of-8 shooting from long range.
“She had a really nice night, I am very thankful for that” Sweeney said. “Its nice for (the scoring load) to move around and not be solely on one person.”
The Panthers went on a 12-0 run to pull away from Whitewater early, and at the end of the first quarter they had jumped out to commanding 16-4 lead.
The Wildcats tried to string together a comeback in the second period, but the full court press employed by the Panthers force a lot of miscues and made it hard to extend the ball past half court. As the half was coming to a close, Whitewater’s Cambria Caliendo made 3-pointer followed by a two to close the gap to 29-18 and pick up up some momentum heading into the half.
During the third period, Starr’s Mill took complete control of the game scoring off backdoor cuts to the basket. They put the game out of reach with a 28 point frame.
The Wildcats’ Jada Claude tried to keep pace with her 20 points and 8 rebounds, but with Starr’s Mill’s balanced attack with three players in double figures allowed them to capture the victory. Following Lally’s 21 points were Emily Nieuwstraten with 11 and Ali Rumpel with 10.
Starr’s Mill followed up the win with a 52-35 romp over Morrow on Saturday to run their record to 11-4 and 3-0 in the region. Lally was again the leading scorer with 10 points.
Whitewater lost Saturday in a non-region game against Forest Park to drop to 6-7 overall and 1-1 in region play.
The boys game saw the Panthers getting off to a slow start and finding themselves trailing for most of the first half before distancing themselves fin the second half to win 55-37.
“Any time you go on the road in this region, you will take a win,” Panther head coach Brandon Hutchins said. “We have not had the best practices to start the new year. I think we got a little overconfident, but in the second half I challenged them to be a little better and I think we established it.”
It would be Starr’s Mill’s Drew Hudson to capture the first points of the contest, but Whitewater’s Josh Lanier and C.J. Jackson followed up by hitting back-to-back threes to jump out to one of their few leads of the game.
Throughout the first quarter, the Panthers struggled to put anything into the basket, and they did not score until 1:05 left in the period. The good news for Starr’s Mill was that Whitewater could not take advantage of the early miscues to extend its lead further. After the first quarter, the score was only 8-4.
Midway through the second quarter, the Panthers finally found their groove and captured the lead after Nate Allison scored his first points of the game. In just two quarters of play both teams combined for only 26 points. Starr’s Mill would only hold a 15-11 lead going into half.
At the start of the third quarter, Starr’s Mill looked like a completely different squad than the first 16 minutes. They built up the largest margin of the game at nine points behind Hudson, who led the team in scoring with 16 points.
The rim was unkind to Whitewater all night, allowing the Panthers to build monstrous lead en route to the 18-point victory. The win runs Starr’s Mill’s record to 8-5 and 1-1 in region play.
Whitewater bounced back with a 67-44 non-region win over Forest Park. The Wildcats’ record sits at 8-4 and 0-2 in region play.
Whitewater will look for revenge when they travel to play Starr’s Mill January 20.
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