In local basketball action over the past week, the OTHS girls’ squad picked up two wins in three outings, and the Panther boys’ squad avenged an earlier conference loss, squeaking past the Collinsville Kahoks 35-33.
The Lady Panthers overcame an early Collinsville offensive run last Thursday evening to notch a 50-45 road win. A pair of 3-pointers fueled the Kahoks scoring flurry to start the game, allowing Collinsville to sprint to a 12-3 lead. The O’Fallon girls responded immediately by the midway point of the initial stanza. Marta Durk and Jayla Stubblefield answered with baskets from beyond the arc, and Celeste Akoro scored twice in the paint so that by the time the quarter ended, the Panthers held a 16-15 advantage.
O’Fallon expanded its lead in the second quarter with balanced scoring. Becca Althoff led the way, scoring five of her eight points during the frame. Defensively, the Lady Panthers picked up the pace two, contesting shots much more effectively to lead 30-24 at halftime.
Marta Durk continued to have the hot hand as the second half began, pouring in six points during the third period enroute to her game high 16. The host Kahoks were a little more efficient, shaving three points off the OTHS lead entering the fourth period.
Coach Ryan Massey’s squad did not falter down the stretch. Durk hit for her final two baskets, and Jayla Stubblefield added two more in a 12 point O’Fallon frame. Collinsville was unable to match the Lady Panthers’ to notch a 50-45 victory and improved their seasonal mark to 14-8.
On Saturday, the O’Fallon girls traveled to Normal for a basketball double-header, facing Normal West in a morning contest and Normal Community in an afternoon nightcap. Despite the absence of center Celeste Akoro who was sidelined due to illness, the Lady Panthers were able to return to O’Fallon with a split.
The long trip and the early start time did not seem to affect the OTHS girls. In fact, the Panthers reveled in their best offensive quarter of the season to start the game. With a flurry of 3-point bombs, one from Marta Durk, one from Becca Althoff and two from Emily Hopkins, O’Fallon bolted to a 26-8 lead by the conclusion of the first stanza. Akoro’s absence did not affect the Panthers. Durk and Althoff continued to rip the basket in the second period with Jayla Stubblefield adding to the scoring punch with a pair of baskets, allowing O’Fallon to enjoy a 39-16 halftime lead.
The two teams played on even terms during the third period with Massey rotating his entire complement of players onto the court. Even though the Panthers did not score a single point in the fourth quarter, the damage had already been done in the first three. The Lady Panthers walked away with a 52-36 victory. Durk and Althoff shared scoring honors, both hitting for 13 points. Stubblefield hit double figures with 10.
After cruising to the first win, the O’Fallon girls faced a sterner test against Normal Community. Three-pointers by Tamia Cash and Althoff helped the Lady Panthers ease into a 10-9 lead after the first eight minutes of the game; however, the absence of Akoro in the middle of the O’Fallon defense began to take its toll in the second stanza. A decided edge in offensive rebounding allowed Normal to erase the tenuous OTHS lead. A 23-19 Normal halftime lead ballooned to 38-29 by the end of the third quarter, despite two 3-point baskets by Jayla Stubblefield during the frame.
Stubblefield’s bombs seemed to ignite the OTHS offense, however, as the Lady Panthers mounted a furious comeback, nearly equaling their offensive of the first three quarters in the final one. Althoff and Durk connected on 3-point baskets to lead the charge with Stubblefield, Keller and Ruffin also hitting shots in a 16-point fourth period. Normal’s answer to the OTHS challenge came from the free throw line as they hit for 10 points at the charity stripe to maintain their lead. Stubblefield led the Panthers’ scoring attack with 11 points with Althoff hitting for 10, but it was not enough as Normal emerged with a 58-45 victory.
With their record now at 15-9 and currently in sole possession of second place in the Southwestern Conference standings, the Lady Panthers have three conference games remaining on their schedule before they enter IHSA regional tournament action. The O’Fallon girls will host Belleville West this Friday as part of a girl-boy hoop double-header against Belleville West. Next week, they wrap up the regular season with a road game at Edwardsville followed by the senior night game against the East St. Louis Flyerettes.
O’Fallon varsity boys’ squad making strides
While the OTHS girls’ squad is heading down the home stretch in their 2015-16 season, the O’Fallon varsity boys’ squad has been making strides toward respectability after a dismal start to their hoop campaign. Last Friday, Coach Rick Gibson’s young squad won their fourth game in a row, defeating the Collinsville Kahoks 35-33 in the Panther Dome.
Scoring took a holiday in the match up between SWC rivals, although the action and pace of the game during the first eight minutes did not give an indication that a power outage was just around the corner.
The two squads traded baskets in the early going with the Panthers slipping into a 12-10 lead by the end of the period. Shots wouldn’t fall for either team beginning in the second stanza. The Panthers scored only twice and trailed 17-16 at halftime.
The offensive woes continued after the break. Collinsville ended the night 0-for-9 from beyond the 3-point arc, and the Panthers were not much better, hitting only one of nine attempts from long range.
“It was a struggle offensively,” Gibson said. “We finally got some better looks in the third period. Collinsville packed their defense in the paint, and we weren’t able to hit any perimeter shots to loosen them up.”
The offensive stalemate continued until the final minute of the fourth period. Collinsville finally tied the game 33-33 with 1:30 remaining on the scoreboard clock. The Panthers slowly brought the ball into the front court where the Kahoks, inexplicably, packed their defense in the paint.
“We were actually sort of surprised that they did not pressure the ball with that much time remaining,” Gibson said. “When they stayed in their tight zone, we decided to pull the ball out and take the final shot.”
The Panthers held the ball until the eight-second mark when they drove the ball into the heart of the Collinsville defense. A five-foot jumper rattled off the rim, but Panther senior Chase Armstrong camped under the basket, rose up and tipped the ball in the hoop as the buzzer sounded.
“It was a fantastic end to one of the strangest games I have ever been involved in as a coach,” Gibson said. “Chance has come up big for us so many times this year, and he was in the right place at the right time.”
The OTHS boys will try to extend their winning streak to five games when they host Belleville West Friday night. On Saturday, they will kick off the Bank of O’Fallon Shootout with a 10:30 a.m. game against Peoria Richwoods.