by Rick Conrad
ROYAL CENTER —
The Pioneer Lady Panthers suited up to take on perennial Midwest Conference power Winamac Tuesday night in Royal Center, the same Winamac team currently ranked No. 10 in Class 2A.
Only thing is, nobody bothered to tell the Lady Panthers that they didn’t have a chance in this one. Without that knowledge, Pioneer dictated the pace of the game and fell shy of a monumental upset. The Panthers let this one get away with just three seconds left when Winamac guard Bethany Brogdon was fouled with the game tied. Brogdon hit both her free throws and the Lady Warriors escaped with a 37-35 win.
Without standout post player Stephanie Shorter in the Winamac (13-3, 5-0 MWC) lineup due to injury, the Panthers (5-13, 2-5) made a concerted effort early on to work the ball inside. When they weren’t looking to punch the ball inside they were content to work the ball around the perimeter showing patience and getting the Warriors to play at the speed they were dictating. Their plan was effective as the Lady Panthers led most of the way through the opening quarter. A 3-pointer from Brogdon at the 1:44 mark was the first points scored for Winamac. A driving 10-footer by the Panthers’ Betsy Bingaman with time running out gave Pioneer a 9-5 first quarter lead.
Winamac tied the game at 9-9 shortly after the second frame began and with their next possession Gabby Dunlap hit to put the Panthers back on top. Winamac switched defenses and went to a 1-3-1 zone to take away what the Panthers were trying to do. In answering, Pioneer continued running a patient offense and increased the lead to four at 16-12 with a Kayte Miller bucket. The Lady Warriors had a chance to take the lead just before the half but a 3-point attempt by Whitney Hook was off the mark, and Pioneer took a 17-15 lead into the break.
When play resumed in the second half the Warriors came out much more aggressive on the offensive end of the floor. A 3-ball from Jessica Schramm at the 6:40 mark gave Winamac its first lead of the game at 22-19.
They say patience is a virtue and the Panthers proved it by sticking to their game plan. After exchanging leads for the rest of the quarter the Panthers reclaimed the advantage at the end of the quarter 28-27.
“We need to play better as a team,” Schramm said. “We picked it up as the game went on so I guess overall it we were decent. I thought the Panthers did a really good job of slowing it down and taking their time.”
A traditional three-point play opened the final frame when Dunlap hit her freebie to make it 31-27 for Pioneer. The Panthers held the lead until Schramm stole the ball with 3:47 left in the game and hit the open layup to tie it at 33-all. A Miller basket put Pioneer back up 35-33. Another Winamac basket set up a wild final 40 seconds. After Winamac’s Alisyn Larkin missed a free throw, Dunlap pulled down her 11th rebound of the game and the Lady Panthers took a timeout. On their possession they turned the ball over, giving Winamac a chance with :25 to go.
Winamac took a timeout of its own to set up the play but Schramm misfired and Pioneer rebounded with :05 left and quickly called another timeout. Inbounding the ball on the Winamac end of the floor, the Panthers turned the ball over when they threw it out of bounds without anyone touching the ball. Winamac had one more chance for the win and Brogdon drove and missed her shot but the Panthers’ Mati DeWitt was whistled for a blocking foul. Brogdon knocked down her two attempts and the Warriors escaped with the win.
“We got killed on the boards,” Winamac coach Jeff Wagner said. “We didn’t rebound very well and with Shorter not being in there we just didn’t board like we usually do. And with Whitney [Hook] playing her first game back we just didn’t get that part of the game covered. We didn’t shoot the ball very well either, we just looked a step slow,”
Said Miller, “I thought we worked well as a team. We’ve still got some things we need to work on but I think we did OK. When they weren’t pressuring us we pulled the ball out and tried using some clock. When they came out we tried going to the basket, we just fell a little short.”
Pioneer coach David McWherter added: “ I thought our girls did a nice job of adjusting as the game went on. Once we got control of the game I told the girls let’s just run at our pace and I thought they did a great job of executing the plan.”
Pioneer was led by 10 points and 11 rebounds on the night from Dunlap. Miller and DeWitt each had seven points while Sarah Dorris finished with six points and seven rebounds.
Winamac was led by Schramm with a game-high 17 points. Brogdon finished with seven.