Parkway senior Raegen Bransteter (23) fires a 3-pointer during the Lady Panthers’ 69-39 loss to LCC on Saturday night in Wapak. Bransteter was an honorable mention all-MAC selection. (Times Bulletin/Pat Agler)
By John Parent
Times Bulletin Sports Editor
WAPAKONETA — Live by the three, die by the three. That’s been the way the Lima Central Catholic Lady Thunderbirds have played all season long. At stretches during the Division III sectional final at Wapak on Saturday night, it looked like a poor strategy, but the T-birds got hot at the right time and rolled to a 69-39 win over Parkway.
The T-birds, who start four guards, don’t seem to have found a 3-pointer they don’t like. LCC was firing away from deep early and often against Parkway, with five differently players knocking down triples during the game.
“From what I had seen (on film), 10 (Shepherd) was their primary shooter. The other kids could shoot if they were left open. Tonight, some of the other kids, besides the Shepherd kid, stepped up and knocked down shots,” noted Parkway head coach Lynn Hughes. “I give credit to them, they are a good shooting team. When you play zone, like we do, it’s hard to stop good shooting.”
Though the T-birds didn’t get on the board until nearly three minutes had run off the first-period clock, senior Meredith Shepherd got LCC rolling with a 3-pointer from the top of the arc, then a steal that turned into a coast-to-coast layup. Those buckets jump-started a 9-0 T-bird run that gave the T-birds a 9-2 lead.
After Parkway’s Sarah Gehron and LCC’s Kayla Verhoff traded threes, Gehron and Sierra Fent keyed a 4-1 spurt to close the quarter with the underdog Lady Panthers trailing by a 13-9 margin.
In the second quarter, Parkway began to capitalize on its advantage inside.
Fent, a second-team all Midwest Athletic Conference performer in this, her senior season, was more than the smaller T-birds could handle in the post. Fent used her 5-foot-11 frame to get position on the low block and scored five points in the quarter as the Panthers finished the half with 19 rebounds to LCC’s 11.
That advantage, however, was more than offset by the 12 turnovers the Lady T-birds defense forced and by the 3-point shooting in the second stanza. LCC drained 4-of-8 from beyond the arc in the period, making up for a 6-for-14 performance overall and taking a 31-20 lead into the locker room.
The heavily-favored T-birds went cold again in then third, shooting just 1-for-8 from downtown, but Parkway found itself down by as many as 15 with 2:27 to play in the quarter. Raegen Bransteter closed the period on a personal 5-0 run, using a 3-pointer and a pair of free throws to get Parkway back to within 10 as the quarter came to a close.
“I felt good going into the fourth quarter,” added Hughes. “Against a team that can shoot the 3-pointer like that, 10 points isn’t that much, and I told my kids that.”
The Panthers ran out of steam in the final quarter, as LCC pushed out to a 50-35 lead before Fent scored inside with 6:12 to play. Parkway wouldn’t score another point for a full five minutes. Meanwhile, the T-birds got to seemingly every loose ball and cashed in more than a few of their opportunities. a pair of Verhoff threes and two buckets from Sydney Mohler highlighted what was a decisive 16-0 run.
“Not quite halfway through the fourth quarter, we seemed to fall apart and I’m not sure why,” Hughes explained. “We didn’t get back on defense, they had easy layups, a couple of times we left 3-point shooters open. We just fell apart.”
Verhoff paced the T-bird attack with 17 points while Mohler added 14 and Liz Kidd poured in a dozen. Fent finished the night with 17 points for Parkway. She was the only Panther in double figures.
“Raegen’s been shooting the ball well, so we wanted to get her some looks, but we also wanted to get the ball inside,” Hughes added. “We got away from that for a while, but we got back to it in the third quarter and (Fent) did a nice job and they didn’t stop her.”
The Lady Panthers finish the year at 8-15, but took a big step forward in Hughes’ second year on the job.
“It was a much better season. In my opinion there were four of five games in there that we could’ve, should’ve won, but we didn’t. I thought, for the most part, we competed all season,” Hughes finished. “The kids came in tonight and they believed and they worked hard. We just ran out of gas.”
Score by quarters
Parkway 9 11 15 4- 39
LCC 13 18 14 24- 69
Hellwarth 2, Gehron 8, Heckler 0, Bransteter 8, Fent 17, T. Walls 2, Henderson 0, K. Walls 0, Rutledge 0, Pond 0, Clark 0, Heindel 2
Santaguida 7, Shepherd 7, Mohler 14, Stolly 9, Verhoff 17, Kidd 12, Snider 0, Koenig 3, Dahill 0, Donnelly 0