RV girls' hot offensive start nearly sinks Sabetha on the road
For 21 minutes, the Lady Panther basketball team had the Sabetha Blue Jays right where they wanted them. Through an impressive defensive showing and a hot start offensively, Royal Valley held a lead for most of the first three quarters against the second-ranked team in Class 3A.
In the final stanza, though, foul trouble and a number of other factors slowed down RVHS and the veteran Blue Jays stormed back to fend off the Panthers’ upset bid in a 51-38 victory on their home court.
“The biggest difference in the ball game was they executed from about the 21-minute point, in their offense, better than we did,” Panther coach Corey Katzer said. “When that pressure starts to build and you look at the clock and you’re leading the number two team in the state, they stay calm and execute and we still are young enough and inexperienced enough that we’re getting there, but we can’t quite finish.”
Early on, it was all Royal Valley as Lexi Baker hit a three to get Royal Valley going on a 12-2 run that helped the visitors open up a big first quarter lead. Baker didn’t slow down, either, as she finished the quarter with 12 of her eventual team-high 14 points.
Later in the quarter, Tamo Thomas hit a three to cap the Panthers’ run and Kate Hanson followed with a big block on the next Blue Jays’ possession that emphasized the level Royal Valley was playing at on Friday.
“We came out fired up, ready to go and got some shots to fall, got some confidence. I think it just kind of snowballed from there and then I think you saw the opposite take place at about the 21-minute mark,” Katzer said.
Sabetha guard Alexis McAfee got going towards the end of the first period, but Royal Valley still held a 17-8 lead at the end of the first. The Blue Jays started to get some points in transition off turnovers in the second quarter, but RVHS maintained a 24-21 lead at halftime.
While Sabetha was the second highly challenging opponent Royal Valley had to prepare for last week, Katzer said he told his team during practice to keep focusing on what it does well. It has become clear that the Panthers’ calling card is defense and the team put forth another solid effort against the Blue Jays.
Facing a team that thrives on pressure defense, the Panthers were every bit the Blue Jays’ equal in that regard and RV even won the turnover battle in the first quarter.
Katzer noted he tried to break down the team using “sabremetrics” last week, too, explaining some emergent patterns to his team during practice on Wednesday and Thursday. Assists and rebounds are stats that he has seen directly tie in to the Panthers’ results on the court, with the team winning every game in which it has recorded double-digit assists.
Also, Katzer noted when Royal Valley has been dominated on the boards the results have rarely been good. Unfortunately for the Panthers, those patterns held true on Friday as the team had only four assists and were outrebounded by 10 in the game against Sabetha.
Things really began to turn in the third quarter as starting forwards Hanson and Macy Putnam quickly picked up their third fouls. Hanson was then whistled for her fourth at that critical 21-minute mark.
With Hanson having to take a seat on the bench and some more inexperienced interior players subbing in, Sabetha’s Emily Meyer took advantage. Meyer attacked the post for the Blue Jays and scored a quick seven points to help the home team take its first lead with three minutes left in the period. Sabetha held a 35-31 advantage going into the fourth quarter.
For all the strides the Panthers have made on the defensive end, Katzer noted the team is not quite there yet on offense. The young RVHS squad is still learning the system and that hindered its efforts down the stretch.
While Thomas hit a key three at the five-minute mark to keep Royal Valley within six points, the veteran Sabetha squad got into a rhythm that allowed the Blue Jays to maintain their advantage on the way to a victory, despite a tremendous effort from the Panthers.
“I’m not into moral victories, but at the same time I told the kids there’s a reason why that was (one of) their closest games, because you played them better than (almost) anybody else has at this point,” Katzer said.
Only Jefferson West (48-40) has come closer to knocking of the Blue Jays this season and while Katzer noted a win like that would’ve been huge for the program, he also sees the progress his players are making. The Panthers (3-4) will have to keep it up, though, as they have another challenging week ahead starting with a home game against Perry-Lecompton on Tuesday. Games will start at 4:30 p.m.
Jan. 8, 2016
RV: Baker 5 (2) 2-2 14, T. Thomas 5 (3) 0-0 13, Hanson 1 3-4 5, Jordan 1 (1) 0-2 3, Putnam 1 0-0 2, K. Thomas 0 1-2 1. Totals- 13 (6) 6-11 38.
Sab.: Meyer 5 2-3 12, McAfee 3 5-7 11, Huneke 3 3-6 9, Schuette 3 (2) 0-0 8, Broxterman 1 3-4 5, Winkler 2 0-2 4, Wenger 1 0-0 2. Totals- 18 (2) 13-22 51.
Rebounding: RV- 17 (Hanson 7); Sab.- 27 (Meyer 7, Huneke 6, McAfee 5).
Assists: RV- 4; Sab.- 8 (McAfee 6).
Turnovers: RV- 15; Sab.- 14.
Royal Valley 32, Sabetha 22