O’Fallon seniors Sydney Thurwalker and Jayla Stubblefield combined for 29 points Thursday as the Panthers held off East St. Louis 54-47 in a Southwestern Conference girls basketball game.
Led by first year-coach Antonio Mattox, the Flyerettes (10-5, 4-3) were forced to play catch-up all night after falling behind by as many as 16 points (26-10) midway through the second quarter. While East St. Louis made several runs at the Panthers, cutting the deficit to five points late in the fourth quarter, Thurwalker and Stubblefield made crucial plays down the stretch for the Panthers (16-2, 8-2).
The 6-foot Thurwalker led O’Fallon with 15 points while Stubblefield added 14. The Panthers also got a couple of key baskets in the closing minutes from sophomore guard Makayla Best to help clinch the win.
“They (East St. Louis) made a couple of runs at us, but we were able to make enough plays. I just told the girls that sometimes it’s a little ugly, but we were able to get out of here with a win,” Panthers first year coach Nick Knolhoff said. “We are without two of our post players, and we had to go a little smaller tonight. East St. Louis is a very athletic team, and they hurt us with their pressure.”
O’Fallon was without Izzy Akoro and freshman Amelia Bell due to injuries. The Flyers also were without two injured starters in senior Kaysie Newson and Shawnta Johnson.
The Flyerettes were put into a deeper hole in the first half when 6-foot junior post player Mya Glanton picked up three fouls. Seizing the opportunity, O’Fallon seemingly had the game under control, taking a 28-15 lead at halftime.
But the Flyerettes regained their composure at halftime, and with senior Rokelle Stanley and Glanton playing well, East St. Louis cut the Panthers’ lead.
“It really hurt us when Mya picked up the three fouls because we were without two starters tonight,” Mattox said. “We just had to settle down at halftime, just relax a little bit. I thought we came out and played with a lot more intensity, and we really had a lot of offensive rebounds that we didn’t convert. I thought we played better in the second half, though.”
Stanley finished with 15 points, 14 rebounds, seven blocked shots and four steals, while Glanton added 15 points. Twice in the fourth quarter, the Flyerettes closed the gap on a basket by Stanley and a baseline jumper by Glanton.
But Stubblefield scored on a pass from Thurwalker, and Best scored on a layup to keep the Panthers’ lead safe.
“Rokelle (Stanley) played well, but she missed too many putbacks. She had 15 points, but I had her with 28 if she converts on those shots,” Mattox said. “We made a few runs at them, but we just couldn’t get over the hump. But to lose by seven points without two starters ... I’ll take that for now.”