Lady Panthers allow 17-4 game-ending run to hosts in second loss of the season
With an early 10-1 lead in Friday's out-of-state matchup, the Palmyra High School girls basketball team appeared to be on its way to a victory over Unity (Mendon, Ill.).
Then again with a 24-17 advantage. And again with a 47-42 edge with just six minutes left to play.
But sometimes, appearances can be misleading.
Host Unity never let the Lady Panthers' lead-changing runs overwhelm it, weathering PHS' three-headed offensive monster and finishing on a 17-4 surge for a 59-51 win.
Coming off a tough 81-35 loss to Quincy Notre Dame (Illinois) on Tuesday, the Lady Panthers looked themselves in the early going, but got away from their game plan too often said head coach Chris Parsons, and the Unity took advantage.
“Our plan coming in was to get to the glass,” Parsons said. “We've watched tape on (Unity) before, we've been to their games, and we thought we could get to the glass on them.
“But I thought we settled for some outside shots. Early some of those were going in, but later on we had a funk and yet we still settled.”
With an offense featuring senior sharpshooters Kaley Augspurg and Haleigh Wosman, and junior Nicole Kroeger, but with just six made 3-pointers – and too many misses – for the game, Kroeger said her team should have probably retooled its strategy.
“We were just struggling to shoot,” Kroeger said. “And when we got to the basket, (shots) weren't going in.
“We kept trying our hardest to get shots in.”
In the early going, Augspurg and Wosman scored seven and three points, respectively, to give Palmyra (5-2) a 10-1 cushion with 3:32 remaining. But Unity head coach Brad Begeman called a timeout, and the Lady Mustangs got right back into the game.
A 9-6 spurt from Unity made it a 16-10 PHS lead after the first quarter.
The Lady Panthers pulled away again late in the first half thanks to points from sophomore Robby Meyers, Wosman, Kroeger and sophomore Savannah Neisen. Neisen's free throw with just over four minutes left in the second quarter put Palmyra up 24-17, but Unity again answered back.
“We talked before the game about playing through (Palmyra's) runs,” Begeman said. “I've got a lot of respect for coach Parsons and his program, and all of his players. And we knew it was going to be a challenge all night. We had to play through each other's runs.”
The Lady Mustangs' continued doing that with a 9-0 push that came on a pair of junior Clair Rabe 3-pointers sandwiched around a trey from Kuhn. Just like that, Unity was ahead 26-24, and moments later, another Rabe basket had the hosts ahead 28-26 at halftime.
The teams exchanged a bevy of baskets in a 31-point third quarter that saw Palmyra take a 43-42 lead on a 3-pointer from Kroeger and a jumer from Augspurg to end the period's scoring.
Those points were part of an 11-1 PHS run that ended on a Kroger steal-and-layup combo with 6:05 left to play. But ahead 47-42, the Lady Panthers were unable to close out the victory.
Unity scored the next 15 points of the game to seize control at 57-47 in the final two minutes, and that spelled the end of the Lady Panthers' chances.
Hildebrand scored six points during the decisive move, while Kuhn had five and senior Kayden Miller added four.
For the game, Augspurg finished with 17 points, and Wosman and Kroeger finished with 12 a piece. Hildebrand and Kuhn also finished with 17 each. Hildrebrand notched a double-double with 15 rebounds.
Prior to Tuesday's loss to Quincy Notre Dame, Parsons said his team would be getting an early test with matchups against QND and Unity. After an 0-2 performance, the coach admitted there's plenty of work left to do.
“At QND, we learned that we just got outworked and outplayed by a great basketball team,” he said. “Tonight we got beat by a better basketball team. But again, it all comes down to execution in games like this.
“When you play against a team in a game that can go either way, you have to execute the whole night. You have to do the little things right."