SPRING VALLEY — The Putnam County Panthers clinched a share of their third straight Tri-County Conference championship at Hall on Feb. 8, overcoming a slow start to escape with a 56-54 win.
Evan Kreiser led the Panthers with 16 points. A game high 28-point performance from the Red Devils’ Brett Fanning kept them in contention until the end.
“We came out really flat tonight. We played without much energy. We didn’t look like the same team that played last Friday or last Tuesday,” Panthers’ coach Josh Nauman said. “Nobody was talking and we were not playing with a lot of emotion. We finally picked that up in the fourth quarter and pulled away. Making free throws has been a problem all year, and we actually made some until right at the end we quit hitting the free throws.
“We made the plays we needed down the stretch and that was good to see.”
Hall (8-16) got off to a hot start, thanks to the inspired play of Fanning. He had eight points in the first and second quarters. The Panthers were having trouble getting shots and they turned the ball over early allowing Hall to hold the advantage 14-10 going into the second quarter. In the second, the Panthers fared a little better and after a very workman like performance, they pushed themselves to a two-point 27-25 lead by halftime.
The third quarter was a tit for tat period that ended with Hall ahead by two, 42-40, heading into the fourth quarter.
Early in the fourth, the Panthers (9-15) tied the game up at 44 all. Seconds later they took a two-point lead and held onto it for the rest of the game. The Panthers free-throw shooting cooled in the quarter, allowing Hall to foul and cut into the seven-point 54-47 lead it built during the quarter. Nearing the end of regulation, Hall went on a 7-2 run that put the score at 56-54 in favor of the Panthers, despite Fanning’s shooting cooling off.
Rather than play for overtime, Filippini elected to go for the win and run a three-point play. Roosevelt Fuentes just missed on the potential game winning shot.
“I told the guys that this was like a regional game. This is what a regional game feels like, and even though the loss hurts, it will help us,” Filippini said. “We didn’t lose for lack of effort or talent. There were several mental mistakes. They played well, we just came up one possession short. They’re (Putnam County) going to win the conference now. We’ve played the best team in the conference to a one possession game twice. It stings to lose like that. In a game like that, everyone is going to look at the last play. But, we had way too many chances that we missed. We had turnovers and we weren’t boxing out. Things like that never come out in the last play of the game.”
Filippini saluted his seniors.
“They’re great leaders and great kids to have in the program. We had six of them and to show you what kind of kids they are, Alex Oliveres and Landon Piccatto, who don’t play a whole lot, could’ve had a chance to start but they told the team they didn’t want to start because it could affect the outcome of the game. That’s the kind of high character kids we want in our program.”
Hall won the junior varsity game 53-41.