Early in January a year ago, a highly-ranked Nashville Hornet team rolled south on Hwy 127 to take on the Pinckneyville Panthers in a boys basketball battle of conference unbeatens.
In that game, Pinckneyville executed its game plan flawlessly, and sent the Hornets home with a loss.
Fast forward to Friday night -- this year's battle of conference unbeatens, only reversed. The AP #1 ranked Panthers headed north to meet the AP #10 ranked Hornets, who played their game to perfection. Pinckneyville -- who until Friday had only one loss on the season -- got rolled by Nashville, 57-38.
Panther Head Coach Bob Waggoner gave all credit in preparation to Nashville, saying the Hornets' "attack-mode" approach kept the Panthers on their heels throughout the game.
Coach Waggoner added that the loss gives his team the chance to "find out what we're made of," and how the team can improve going forward.
Nashville took control early and never trailed in the SIRR Mississippi matchup. The Hornets led 10-7 after the first quarter, but really made their move in the second quarter, amassing a 25-10 halftime lead.
The Hornets controlled the offensive tempo of the game, forcing the Panthers into turnovers and outrebounding Pinckneyville consistently. Pinckneyville made a slight comeback in the third quarter, outscoring the Hornets 13-8 to cut the lead to 33-23, but that was as close as the Panthers would get.
Having dominated many opponents throughout the season thus far, Pinckneyville found itself on the opposite side of the ledger. Continuing their tough, attack-mode approach, Nashville relied heavily on drawing fouls and making free-throws through the fourth quarter to extend the lead to their largest advantage of 19 to end the game at 57-38.
Free throws made the biggest difference in the game's outcome, as Nashville made 23 of 31 attempts, while Pinckneyville was 8 of 10. The Hornets shot 14 for 31 from the field, and the Panthers 13 for 35.
Dawson Yates led the Panthers with 19 points; Nashville's Tristen Hercules and Carson Parker each had 16 to lead the Hornets. The Panthers fell to 14-2 overall and 3-1 in the conference; Nashville moved to 13-4 and 4-0 with the win. The teams will match up again on Feb. 15 in Pinckneyville.
Panthers 73; Vandalia 24
Pity the team that has to come into Thomas Gym and play the Panthers the night after their loss to Nashville.
Pinckneyville bounced back in a big way, dominating Vandalia 73-24 on Saturday night. The Panthers rediscovered their signature balanced attack, finishing with three players in double figures and 12 players scoring.
Vandalia scored the first field goal of the game, but Dawson Yates countered with consecutive 3-pointers on the next two trips down the court.
A 6-5 game soon became 17-5 as Coach Waggoner subbed early and often in the first quarter, keeping players fresh on the court for their press defense to create many offensive opportunities. Devin Kitchen, Duke Riggins, Dre Scott and Grant Tanner all chipped in points in the 25-7 opening quarter.
The Panthers continued to roll in the 2nd quarter, effectively alternating between a man-to-man and a 2-3 zone defense. Yates again started the Panther scoring with a 3-pointer.
Pinckneyville's balance and variety of weapons stretched out the lead to 31-7 on a Devin Kitchen 3-pointer. Then Scott and Tanner worked a textbook give-and-go in the lane; Noah Carter added a breakaway layup, and Yates and Ben Restoff hit 3-pointers as the lead reached 43-14 at halftime.
Pinckneyville continued their balanced attack in the 2nd half. Yates finished his scoring for the night with a breakaway slam two minutes into the 3rd quarter, and five other Panthers joined the scoring barrage of 18 points in the third quarter while allowing the Vandals only five.
Restoff and Kitchen hit 3-pointers, Tanner completed a 3-point play, Scott added two, and Hunter Riggins hit a pair of free throws -- he would make a 3-pointer and Duke a field goal in the 4th quarter before the Panther bench took over during the continuous clock final stanza to close out the 73-24 victory.
Yates led the Panther scoring with 16; Kitchen had 14, and Tanner 12. Three players had six points each for the Vandals.
Pinckneyville moved to 15-2 and will face the Carterville Lions Friday at home, an SIRR Conference game, before heading to the Benton Tournament the following week.