Parkway freshman Sarah Gehron drives for the layup during the Lady Panthers’ 32-20 win over Antwerp on Saturday. Gehron scored seven points in the game. (Times Bulletin/Pat Agler)
By John Parent
Times Bulletin Sports Editor
ROCKFORD — Maybe it was the Saturday afternoon start time. Or maybe it was that they were facing a 1-17 Antwerp Lady Archers team. Whatever the reason, Parkway’s Lady Panthers came out flat and had to rely on a second-half surge to put away a 32-20 non-conference win.
Parkway came out in a relaxed 2-3 defensive zone look, which was a departure for head coach Lynn Hughes, who likes her club to pressure and force tempo.
Instead, the packed-in zone gave Antwerp shot after shot from the perimeter, but the shots weren’t falling for the Lady Archers. Though Antwerp lead 1-0 after a Cheyenne Miller-Sweet free throw, the Lady Panthers got senior post Sierra Fent established early.
Fent dropped an elbow jumper on a Cami Hellwarth assist, then followed that with a turnaround jumper from the low block to establish the Parkway lead at 4-1. A steal at mid-court by Sarah Gehron turned into a fastbreak layup by the freshman and Parkway led 8-2 after one quarter of play.
“She’s a floor leader,” Parkway head coach Lynn Hughes said the freshman Gehron, who came off the bench after missing the previous two games. “She sees the floor well and she does a great job of finding Cami in the fast break situation, and, when that’s not there, she does a good job of pulling the ball out and setting the offense.”
“Sarah did a great job coming off the bench today, especially after (missing the last two games). She did a great job coming in and playing hard today.”
Antwerp didn’t make its initial field goal until 4:55 to go in the first half - a stretch of 11:05 of game action. That bucket came on an offensive rebound by Miller-Sweet, which was the sixth such board of the game for the Archers. They missed their first 15 shots of the game.
Miller-Sweet’s hoop seemed to jumpstart the Archers, who had trailed 11-2 before that basket. The Lady Archers would close to within 14-11 at the break.
“I told the kids, we can’t come out flat, but we did,” noted Hughes. “We didn’t play great, but we did play a little bit better in the second half.”
“Typically, we like to get up and down, but it this situation, it’s a Saturday, it’s hard to get the kids going, so I think it was to our benefit,” Hughes noted of her decision to play zone versus Antwerp.
In the second half, the Panthers looked to push the ball a bit more and the senior Hellwarth finally got herself involved.
After Antwerp’s Kaiya Jemison pulled the Archers to within 14-13, Hellwarth scored on a spinning layup after the Panthers were able to break the Antwerp pressure. Fent scored on the low block on the next trip, and Hellwarth added another layup and a 12-foot jumper to give the Panthers a 22-13 advantage.
“She was flat in the first half, but she came out after halftime and got after it defensively,” Hughes added. “We got her running up and down the court a little bit, and that’s when Cami is at her best, when we push the ball. She did a better job, and we did a better job getting her the ball in the second half.”
Fent grabbed an offensive rebound and scored to put the Panthers up 26-16 early in the fourth quarter and then found Hellwarth at the top of the key for a straight-on jumper and the Panthers were up by a dozen. Fent then capped her night by knocking one in on the low post. She finished with a game-high 13 points and also made an impact with five blocked shots.
“Four or five blocks and she grabbed 11 rebounds as well,” Hughes noted of Fent’s afternoon. “Offensively, we like to get Cami on the run or get Sierra inside, and Sierra’s doing a much better job this year. When we get her the ball, she’ll make the shot.”
Parkway improves to 7-12 on the season with the victory. The Lady Panthers also claimed victory in the JV contest.
Score by quarters
Antwerp 2 9 5 4- 20
Parkway 8 6 10 8- 32
Miller-Sweet 3, Miesle 2, Longardner 3, Short 0, Jemison 4, Recker 1, Braaten 7, Phillips 0
Hellwarth 8, Heckler 2, Bransteter 0, Walls 0, Fent 13, Gehron 7, Heindel 2, Henderson 0, Pond 0