Just a few weeks after winning the SVC tournament title on Feb. 8, the PBL Panthers' boy's basketball team can now add the SVC regular-season title to their resume as well.
The team took on SVC tournament runner up, the Cissna Park Timberwolves, and managed to defeat them yet again, this time on their home court. The final score was 77-61.
To start the game, Cissna Park's Ian Rogers was able to put the ball up for three points at the 7:10 mark to take the lead over PBL 3-0. The lead was short-lived, however, with PBL managing to grab two-points followed by a layup from the Panthers' Drake Schrodt to take the lead 4-3 with just under six minutes left in the first quarter. A successful three-point shot from Trey VanWinkle extended the Panthers' lead to four and put the score at 7-3. A jump shot from the free-throw line by Penn Stoller found the bottom of the rim making the score 7-5 with just under five minutes left. Colton Coy was sent to the free-throw line for PBL with 4:32 on the clock to make one of two free throws making the score 8-5. Cissna Park was able to then cut the Panthers' lead down to just one point with a layup from Malakai Verkler. Another layup from Verkler at 3:05 gave the Timberwolves the lead 9-8 but was short-lived with PBL scoring a layup of their own on the next possession making the score 10-9. VanWinkle exchanged three-pointers with Cissna Park's Gavin Speirs to make the score 13-12 and yet another three from VanWinkle at the 1:32 mark forced the Timberwolves to call their first time out of the game with the score 16-12. After the time out, the Panthers were able to grab another five points while holding off the Timberwolves completely before moving into the second quarter of play with a score of 21-12.
In quarter two, Rogers found himself on the board once again to start putting up another three-point shot to give Cissna Park 15. But, back to back three's from VanWinkle and Schrodt, respectively extended the Panthers lead to 12, 27-15. Cissna Park's Keegan Boyle managed to make a three-point shot of his own with 4:15 on the clock which was answered with yet another three from VanWinkle making the score 30-18. Another layup from Verkler made it a ten-point game 30-18 but, with 2:49 remaining in the half, PBL's Schrodt was sent to the line after getting fouled while scoring a layup. His extra point attempt was successful and the Panthers then led the Timberwolves 33-20. Coy was then fouled 20 seconds later and was able to make both of his free throw attempts 35-20. VanWinkle was then able to grab his sixth three-pointers of the game with just over two minutes remaining in the first half to move the score to 38-20 and forcing another Cissna Park time out. Schrodt then managed another three-pointer of his own to give the Panthers 41 points before Cissna Park's Verkler managed to make back to back layups to close out the quarter 41-24.
In the second half, the Timberwolves managed to outscore the Panthers in quarter three, picking up 15 points while holding the Panthers to 11. However, the Timberwolves still found themselves behind by 10 points to start the final quarter where PBL was able to grab another 25 points and secure their victory as well as the regular season SVC title 77-61.
Leading the Panthers at the rim was Trey VanWinkle. VanWinkle finished his night off with a total of 26 points, followed by Drake Schrodt with 23. Colton Coy also contributed 11.
"I thought we did a really good job playing off the energy in the environment and embracing it and coming out strong," said PBL head coach Adam Schonauer.
One major factor contributing to the Panthers' win was their ability to force turnovers when they needed to. In the first half alone, PBL forced 10 turnovers from the Timberwolves, 15 to end the game. Schonauer said that was one key to the teams' success.
"We obviously want to turn the other team over because that takes away scoring opportunities from them," he said. "But, on the other side, you want to get as many shots up as you can. If you turn the ball over or miss fee throws and have empty possessions that can come back to kill you. It's a game of runs and when you make shots and don't turn it over you limit other team's runs."
With the team getting set to host their regional tournament right around the corner, the Panthers are seeded to take on either the Hoopeston Cornjerkers or Watseka Warriors in the semifinal game on Feb. 25. The championship game will then take place on Feb. 28.
"I'm excited to host the tournament," said Schonauer. "I hope our community comes out and supports these guys because they are really great kids. They're hard workers, they play the game the right way and I think we play a fun style of basketball. I think people will come out and enjoy watching these guys play, so hopefully, we will make the community proud and pull out a regional championship this year."