Tom Latonis Breeze-Courier Writer
(VANDALIA) — The Pana Panthers boys basketball team won the Vandalia Holiday Tournament on Thursday night with a convincing 71-46 over Macon Meridian in the Vandalia High School gym. It was the eighth title for the Panthers who have won back-to-back titles in the tournament for the second time (2019 and 2021). There was no tournament due to COVID-19 last year. Pana won back-to-back titles in 2001 and 2002 as well.
“We played so unselfishly, shared the basketball and just trusted each other out there,” Pana Head Coach Adam Metzger said. “I think that was one of the big keys was, if that guy is open, I’m going to give him the ball and he’s bury it and if not,letmegoinangetthe rebound and clean it up.”
Pana senior Brenden Schoonover was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, scoring 24 points in the championship game. He did not miss a field goal attempt during the game, hitting 8-of-8 from 2-point range and 2-of-2 from 3-point range, including a spectacular 3-pointer from the top of
the key to beat the buzzer at the end of the first quarter. The 5-11 senior scored 14 of his game-high points in the third quarter. He averaged just over 19 points per game in the tournament.
“He’s just a special player. He’s the spark plug for us,” Metzger said. “He doesn’t miss a shot from the field tonight, but he does so much than that. It’s rebounding, it’s getting hands on passes, it’s facilitating the offense, withstanding the pressure and I thought he did a great job on (Meridian’s Mekhi) Phillips I think he held him to 5 points while he was in the game.” Phillips was averaging 12 points per game during the tournament.
The defense of the Panthers was definitely on display Thursday night. The Hawks, ranked fourth in the state in Class1A basketball, had been averaging 70 points per game in the tournament. Pana held them to 13 points in the second quarter and 11 in each of the remaining three quarters.
“Whenever you hold them to 46 with most of them coming in the fourth quarter after the running clock had started, it’s a testament to
the guys buying in. They’re the guys out there doing everything.”
Pana shot 56% from the floor for the game. They went 9-of-20 from 3-point range. They shot 60% from the free throw line, 6-of-10. The Hawks shot 37% making 5-of-16 from behind the arc. At the line, they made 11 of 16 attempts, 69%.
The Panthers owned the boards with a 26-16 advantage. Drew Hackler pulled down 8 caroms to lead the team and Devon Peebles had 5. Schoonover and Kyle Kuhn got 4 apiece.
Peebles ended up with 17 points and was 4-of-5 from behind the arc. Colin Schmitz scored 10 points. Both Peebles and Schmitz were named to the all- tournament team along with Schoonover. Drew Hackler and Kyle Kuhn each scored 8 points with Max Lynch rounding out the scoring with 4 points.
The game featured just 17 turnovers combined. Pana had 8 and Meridian, 9.
The Panthers are riding an 11-game winning streak and are 11-1 on the season. They are scheduled to return to action on Tuesday when they travel to Mattoon for non-conference action with the Green Wave. Junior varsity action starts at 6:00 p.m.