After winning their last three regular-season games of the season, the PBL Lady Panthers basketball team improved their record to 21-8 heading into regional play beginning on Wednesday.
The team defeated the likes of GCMS, Hoopeston and Cissna Park to give them a total of 21 wins on the season, a feat not done in quite some time.
"I think this is the first time that we've won 21 games since 2007-08 so it's probably been a little over ten years since we've won that many," said PBL girls coach, Nathan Lawler.
In the team's most recent win, against the Cissna Park Lady Timberwolves, the Panthers won the game handily leading by 20 points to end the game with a score of 54-34.
Senior Mackenzie Bruns led the Lady Panthers in total points, grabbing 30 while Hannah Schwarz picked up nine and Kirra Lantz contributed seven. That win came after another 20 point victory over the Hoopeston Cornjerkers. The final score was 50-30.
After completing such a successful regular season, Lawler said he considers himself lucky to have the leadership he does.
"I've been fortunate that Mackenzie Bruns and Kirra Lantz were the only two sophomores when I first got this job," he said. "Those two have been with me for three years and I've really seen in both kids just a complete change. "They're different kids than what they were as sophomores. Kirra is one player you know what you're going to get from her. Her teammates love her and she is a very positive kid. They don't make many like her in terms of attitude and effort. She is one of the best leaders I've ever coached. Then we have Mackenzie who is a thousand point scorer and she has stepped up in how she leads as well over the past year."
Lawler said the leadership quality those two players possess has helped provide a hunger for his team to take the regional championship.
"Both of those kids have bought into what we want to accomplish. I think they want to be the first class that instead of just making it to a regional title, they want to go out and get it for their own."
The team is poised to take on El-Paso Gridley in the first round of regionals, which Lawler said will be no easy task.
"El Paso's coach and I are good coaching friends. We've kind of went back and forth this year and he used to teach within our district so, I have a feeling that they're going to know what we're doing and we're going to know what they're doing so it's going to come down to execution," he said. "Those guys play a 1-2-2 zone and some 2-3, so our kids just have to be ready to catch and shoot. I think the key is going to be who controls the tempo so if we can get our full-court presses and force them to play the full length of the court I really like our shot."
The PBL Lady Panthers will face off with El Paso Gridley in the first round of regionals at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 12.