GIBSON CITY -- What a difference two years can make.
Two years ago, PBL went 2-1 through pool play in the Lady Falcon & Bunnie Tip-Off Classic, but did not win the free-throw percentage tiebreaker, so it did not play in the championship game.
After winning 53-38 over Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley in their Falcon Pool finale on Thursday, the Panthers were once again 2-1. This time, however, a 68-percent free-throw shooting effort earned them a shot at the title as PBL will face St. Joseph-Ogden at 7 p.m. Friday in Fisher.
"(That's) pretty good so far," PBL head coach Nathan Lawler said. "I can appreciate that."
Meanwhile, GCMS fell to a record of 0-3 with the loss.
"This first week is always a good learning opportunity for us," GCMS head coach Keri Dornbusch said. "It's been tough all week, and we knew it would be. We're still learning, and we're growing and we're finding what we need to fix, but the girls are playing hard. I couldn't be prouder of them."
The Falcons will face Iroquois West in the seventh-place game at 5:30 p.m. in Gibson City.
"I just told the girls to come prepared to play a good basketball game and just work hard," Dornbusch said. "If we do those little things that we can improve upon and control the things we need to control, we'll work hard and get a win tomorrow night, hopefully."
A couple of baskets by GCMS's Ryleigh Brown followed a field goal by PBL's Baylee Cosgrove, giving the Falcons an early 4-2 lead before Kirra Lantz made a 3-pointer to give PBL a 5-4 lead. From there, the Panthers never trailed again.
Following another basket by Cosgrove and two free throws made by Brown with 4:09 left in the first quarter, Brooke Walder scored on an offensive-rebound putback and Brown tallied a basket to make the score 9-8.
From there, PBL went on an 8-0 run as Hannah Schwarz made two 3-pointers and Cosgrove scored on another putback.
"It was a good team win. They played 2-3 zone, and we were able to work on some zone offense and get up and down the floor with our presses," Lawler said.
Brown scored five points, including a three-point play with 3:06 left in the second quarter, and Hannah Hathaway made a 3-pointer to cut a GCMS deficit to 21-17. From there, however, PBL ended the first half on a 9-2 run, ending with another putback by Walder.
"They've got a young squad, but they played hard and they're well-coached," Lawler said. "One of the things we talked about at the beginning of the game is we have to control the controllables -- our attitude, our effort and being a great teammate -- and that was great all night. That's something we had to improve on from the other night. I'm glad that we're buying into that culture that we want to set, so kudos to our kids."
The Panthers outscored GCMS 15-9 in the third quarter as Mackenzie Bruns scored five points, Makenna Ecker tallied two points off a steal, Schwarz made her fourth 3-pointer of the game, Emily Adwell drained a trey as well and Walder scored on another putback.
For GCMS, Emily Clinton made a 3-pointer and Abby Spiller scored on an offensive-rebound putback to cut the deficit to 30-24, from from there, two baskets by Spiller accounted for the Falcons' only four points for the rest of the third quarter.
"You're going to have your off nights shooting. The shots will start to fall for us. We just keep telling the girls to just keep moving and keep trying and keep shooting," Dornbusch said.
With 5:49 left in the fourth quarter, Cosgrove scored on an offensive-rebound putback while being fouled by Brown. After missing her ensuing free-throw attempt, she rebounded the miss and laid the ball through the net to extend PBL's lead to 51-29.
"We have to work on rebounding and make sure that we're boxing out and doing those little things to get in position to get those rebounds," Dornbusch said. "That definitely was one of the stats that I would like to see improve."
Bruns finished the game with 13 points while Schwarz and Cosgrove also scored in double figures with 12 and 10 points, respectively, while Makenna Ecker and Walder each had six points. Lantz and Emily Adwell each had three points while Lorena Arnett had two points as the Panthers were able to give playing time to all 14 players in their scorebook.
"We were able to get more girls out on the floor and get them varsity reps," Lawler said. "We are really young off the bench, so getting those varsity reps is so critical right now during the season. That was good to get tonight."
Brown and Clinton finished with 14 and 10 points, respectively, to lead GCMS while Spiller had six points, Hathaway had three points, Kadyn Barnes and Skyler Funk each had two points and Emma Swanson had one point.
PBL 55, GCMS 38
PBL 17 13 15 10 -- 55
GCMS 9 10 9 10 -- 38
Emily Adwell 1-0-3, Brooke Walder 3-0-6, Emily Robidoux 0-0-0, Baylee Cosgrove 5-0-10, Hannah Schwarz 4-0-12, Losa Suaava 0-0-0, Mallorie Ecker 0-0-0, Lorena Arnett 1-0-2, Mackenzie Bruns 4-5-13, Lillie Frichtl 0-0-0, Kirra Lantz 1-0-3, Kayla Adwell 0-0-0, Makenna Ecker 3-0-6, Makynlie Hewerdine 0-0-0. Totals 22-5-55.
Kadyn Barnes 0-2-2, Hailey Ferguson 0-0-0, Kennedy Fanson 0-0-0, Hannah Hathaway 1-0-3, Rylee Tompkins 0-0-0, Skyler Funk 1-0-2, Emily Clinton 2-4-10, Abby Spiller 3-0-6, Ryleigh Brown 5-4-14, Emma Swanson 0-1-1. Totals 12-9-38.
3-pointers -- PBL 6 (Schwarz 4, E. Adwell, Lantz). GCMS 3 (Clinton 2, Hathaway).