Tom Latonis Breeze-Courier Writer (PANA) — The Pana Panthers girls basketball team forced the visiting Litchfield Purple Panthers into 37 turnovers and picked up their 21st straight win, 66- 18, over their South Central Conference foe. Pana leads the SCC with a 6-0 record.
While the Panthers put on a dazzling defensive performance, the atmosphere of the game was different. It was a varsity only contest played at 6:00 p.m. and it seemed the vibe of the game was just a little off.
“It was out of our routine – no JV game. You just show up and play,” Pana Head Girls Basketball Coach Brent McKinney said. “The varsity kids are usually sitting around, getting into the element and watching the JV play, then going down and get dressed and talk then taking the floor. It was definitely out of the norm, routine game.”
Despite the out of sorts kind of game, senior Jillian Hamilton didn’t let that bother her as she led all scorers with 25 points, including 10 points
in the third quarter. She also had 9 in the second quarter and finished the game with 6 rebounds.
Pana’s ball-hawking defense caused the Purple Panthers in to numerous turnovers – 24 in the first half alone – which they were able to convert into points.
“That’s kind of been our mojo all year long,” said McKinney. “Control the tempo. If we can kind of get it up, cause some turnovers, cash in and maybe get like a 6-0 run and the other team is burning a time-out and you look up and it’s 8-2 all of a sudden after it was 2-2. We’re also deep enough we can keep fresh legs out there and really wear the other team down.”
While the score might not indicate it, McKinney spoke well of the Litchfield effort.
“Litchfield does a nice job in their 2-3 and they’re pretty aggressive,” he said. “They have some length in there. And that’s what I told the girls, it’s not going to be as easy as passing it to the wing and do our stuff.”
Rachel Holthaus had 10 points for the Panthers with
Chloe Ashcraft adding 8 off the bench. Anna Beyers chipped in with 6 and Aryn Alde collected 5 points. Ellie Kuhn and Lainey Hicks each had 4 points and Jadyn Bearup and Jess Vaughn rounded out the scoring with 2 points apiece.
From the floor, Pana shot 46%, making 26-of-56. They were 10-of-17, 59%, from the free throw line. Litchfield shot at a 32% clip, making 8-of-25. They did not have an opportunity from the free throw line.
Pana held a 24-21 advantage in rebounds. After Hamilton’s 6, Hicks and Ashcraft grabbed 5 apiece and Beyers had 4.
Litchfield’s leading scorer was Hailey Rentz with 6 points and Carly Guinn added 4.
In the turnover department, Litchfield committed 37 and Pana had a dozen.
The Panthers, ranked fourth in Class 2A girls basketball in the state, will be in Williamsville on Saturday, Jan. 29, to face St. Joe Ogden at 7:30 p.m. in the Williamsville Shootout.
McKinney says the Spartans, 17-6 and leading the Illini Prairie Conference with a 7-0 record, will be a tough challenge.
“It’s good for us to have this type of late-season challenge,” the coach said. “They are a quality ball club, they’ve got some good size, they’ve got some strong-looking girls. We’re going to have to matchup with a physical team and sometimes we don’t do that well. We do have some speed to kind of off-set that. It should be a really good game on Saturday evening.”
Pana enters the game with 25-1 overall mark and lead the South Central Conference with a 6-0 record.