Tom Latonis Breeze-Courier Writer (RIVERTON) — Thirty seconds into the Pana Panthers girls basketball game, they were down, 5-2 to Mt. Pulaski. But it only took another 30 seconds for the Panthers to begin a 15-1 run and take command of the their third game of the Riverton Holiday tournament and go on to win, 71-48.
“We knew it was going to be a hard-fought game,” Pana Head Coach Brent McKinney said. “Mt. Pulaski came in with a 14-2 record for a reason. They are going to have energy and they’re going to be quick and we needed to come out of the gate ready. We obviously got off to a fantastic start and coasted. Very pleased with our girls.”
One of those girls, Jillian Hamilton, got out of the blocks real fast, scoring 13 first quarter points and finishing with a game-high 24 points.
Pana’s defense caused 7 first quarter turnovers which the Panthers converted into points as they posted a 26- 12 advantage after one.
“We got some energy, we got some length you don’t think we have and some quickness,” the coach said. “We do a good job off the ball and anticipate, read where that pass may come down,
sometimes we may even bait you a little bit, see you wide open and be able to shoot that gap and get some steals.”
Pana’s defense clamped down on the Hilltoppers offense in the second quarter. Mt. Pulaski, whose Grace Davis hit a basket as the buzzer sounded to end the first, never scored a field goal until the 4:45 mark of the third period, a 3-pointer by Davis. But by then, Pana had a 34-point lead, 54-20.
Rachel Holthaus added 15 points in the game and she had 5 rebounds. Lainey Hicks finished with 9 points and 5 rebounds as well. Kiley Ladage chipped in with 7 points and 5 rebounds with Ellie Kuhn and Chloe Ashcraft getting 4 points a piece. Aryn Alde rounded out the scoring with 2 points.
Hamilton led Pana in rebounds recording a double- double with 24 points and 10 rebounds. The Panthers dominated the boards, 33- 13. From the floor, Pana shot 49% sinking 30-of-61 shots. They had 3, 3-pointers. At the free throw line, Pana was 6-of-7, 86%.
For Mt. Pulaski, they were led in scoring by Davis with 11 points. She had 4 rebounds Alexis Wade and Hailee Daigh each scored 7 points. The Hilltoppers were 11-of-33, 33% and they went 7-of-13, 54%, from the free throw line.
Pana held a 46-15 halftime lead and after three quarters, the Panthers had doubled the score, 62-31.
Tonight, at 7:30 p.m., the Panthers, 3-0 in pool play, will battle the PORTA Bluejays, also 3-0 in their pool, for the tournament championship. The Bluejays were 63-48 winners over Prairie Central last night to advance to the finals.