Panthers edge out Wildcats in close contests

A+Panther+player+observes+the+floor.+The+Panthers+started+1-2+in+their+first+three+region+games%2C+but+have+won+their+last+five+contests.+

Katie Linkner

A Panther player observes the floor. The Panthers started 1-2 in their first three region games, but have won their last five contests.

Rilee Stapleton, Editor-in-Chief

Following crucial victories over McIntosh, the varsity basketball teams at Starr’s Mill both defeated Whitewater to place themselves at the top of the region. The boys team defeated the Wildcats 44-37, while the girls cruised past Whitewater 58-39. The boys and girls are both on winning streaks, giving them region records of 6-2 and 7-1, respectively.

“This is a tough game,” boys’ head coach Brandon Hutchins said. “I was proud of the way we hung in there and battled.”

Katie Linkner
A Lady Panther guard brings the ball up the floor. Starr’s Mill used a full court press that forced 19 turnovers against Whitewater.

The Lady Panthers were led by freshman Allie Rumpel who scored 18 points and snatched six rebounds. Sophomore Alice-Anne Hudson added nine points, four rebounds, four assists and four steals. The two teams battled for most of the game, but the Panthers out hustled the Wildcats down the stretch to pull away.

Whitewater junior Courtney Smith scored 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds for the Wildcats. Junior Jada Cloude contributed 12 points of her own, but it wasn’t enough to upset Starr’s Mill. Both teams forced 19 turnovers, but the Panther defense stepped up late and put the Wildcats away.

“Our young team is bonding really well,” Alice-Anne said. “No one can really stop us right now.”

The Lady Panthers used a full-court press to disrupt the Whitewater offense right from the start. However, Starr’s Mill turned the ball over as well, giving the Wildcats chances to stay in the game early on. As the teams traded baskets throughout the quarter, the Panthers slowly built a six-point lead by the end of the period, taking a 16-10 lead into the second quarter.

To start the second quarter, both teams continued to turn the ball over, with neither side gaining an edge. Every basket from one team was matched by the other. Whitewater and Starr’s Mill each scored nine points over the eight minute span, making the score 25-19 at halftime.

No one can really stop us right now.”

— sophomore Alice-Anne Hudson

“No one had a bad attitude this game,” Rumpel said. “We all played together as a team, and if we continue to do that we’ll have a good rest of the season.”

The third quarter was back and forth, with Whitewater nearly taking the lead. They came out hot after the break and crept back into the game. After coming within one point of the Mill, the Panthers used a 9-0 run to push the Wildcats’ deficit to 10. With 3:11 left in the quarter, Starr’s Mill led 39-29, and looked to take Whitewater out of the game. The Panthers led 44-35 going into the fourth.

The Panthers retained their momentum and went on a 13-4 run to begin the final quarter. After giving up the run, Whitewater couldn’t catch up. The Panthers dominated the glass and converted many second-chance opportunities to close out the game. By the time the buzzer sounded, the Starr’s Mill lead had swelled to 19, giving the Lady Panthers a 58-39 victory.

“Whitewater made it close for a second, but [our players] didn’t let it affect them,” head coach Emily Sweeney said. “They just kept playing their game.”

On the boys’ side, the Panthers had a balanced scoring attack. Juniors Nate Allison and Julian Lynch scored 13 points and 19 points, respectively, while senior Carson Langham added nine more. Senior Drew Hudson had a great all-around game, totaling 13 points, seven rebounds, and five assists.

Katie Linkner
A Panther guard drives past a Wildcat defender. The Panthers made 11 of 12 free throws, which was crucial in helping them pull away in the fourth quarter.

Senior Josh Lanier scored 16 points for Whitewater, while sophomore Omar Ndengey added 10 more for the Wildcats. Despite getting off to a good start, Whitewater struggled to score throughout the entire game and lost their fifth region game in six contests.

“It’s always tough coming off of a game like [McIntosh],” Allison said. “It was a great team win.”

Whitewater jumped out to a 7-4 lead and seemed to have all of the momentum early. Their aggressiveness on defense disrupted the Panther offense, giving the Wildcats an early edge. However, Starr’s Mill responded with similar defense, and both teams struggled to score. After one quarter, the Panthers led 10-9.

The second quarter was very similar to the first, with the teams each scoring 10 points. Starr’s Mill struggled with turnovers, while the Wildcats struggled to hit shots. When the Panthers didn’t turn the ball over, their ball movement and motion on offense resulted in easy buckets for the Mill. The score was 20-19 at halftime, in favor of Starr’s Mill.

“They’ve bought in to what we’ve been teaching them, and they’re playing as a team,” Hutchins said. “They did what they had to do to win the game.”

Once again, the opponents battled back and forth, with neither team pulling away. Throughout the third quarter, the teams traded the lead with each team scoring 11 points in the quarter. It was the fourth quarter that made the difference for Starr’s Mill. A small run gave them a lead, and they finally managed to hold onto it. Whitewater grew tired and began to play sloppy, while the Panthers continued to score on easy shots inside.

Starr’s Mill scored 13 fourth quarter points to Whitewater’s nine, giving the home team a 44-37 victory. Despite trading leads and multiple ties, the Panthers were able to pull away for their fifth region win in a row.

“We’re on a roll right now and we just need to keep it going,” Drew said. “The energy has been there and we’re playing well as a team.

Following the Whitewater games, boys improved to 12-7 on the year, with a 6-2 region record. The girls are an impressive 15-5, and 7-1 in region play. Up next for both teams is a matchup with Morrow. In their first meeting, the boys fell to the Mustangs 60-55, while the girls easily defeated Morrow 52-35. The girls will look to win their fifth region game in a row, and the boys are hungry for revenge. The contest is on Jan. 23 in the Panther Pit with the girls’ game at 6 p.m. and the boys’ at 7:30 p.m.