The O’Fallon Panthers opened their season on Saturday hoping to make an early season statement against perennial Class 3A central Illinois power Chatham-Glenwood.
Instead it was sophomore Ciara Iahr and the rest of the Titans who had the final say in an opening round game at the O’Fallon Tip-Off Classic.
Iahr scored seven of her team-high 13 points in the second half and two teammates were also in double figures as Chatham-Glenwood went on for a 48-43 win before a large turnout at Panther Dome.
Just hours after a tough 46-44 loss to 2015 Class 2A state tournament runnerup Central, the Titans (1-1) used a 15-12 advantage in the second quarter to take a lead they would never relinquish in the final two quarters as they held off the cold-shooting Panthers.
Although hoping for an opening day sweep, Chatham-Glenwood coach Josh Crossland said he was pleased with how his team remained aggressive despite playing two games in a span of eight hours.
“We work on staying aggressive and I thought that really helped against their (O’Fallon’s) pressure. Even after we broke their press I thought we did a good job of finding the open player for a spot-up 3-point shot or taking the ball to the basket and either drawing a foul or getting a good shot,” Crossland said. “Of course it would have been nice to have been able to get the one this morning as well, but I was pleased at how we bounced back and beat a very athletic O’Fallon team.”
Sophomore MaKenzie Bray, who scored 21 points in the loss to Central added 10 points against O’Fallon while Ciara Downey also added 10.
Key sequence of the game
O’Fallon, which was led by senior Marta Durk (14 points) and sophomore Jayla Stubblefield (10 points), trailed by only three points at halftime, but went ice cold in the third quarter. The Panthers had only one field goal — a 3-point basket by Durk — and managed only four points in period.
Iahr and senior Abbey Deverman keyed the Titans 9-4 spurt with 3-point baskets as the lead grew to 38-30. The Panthers would get no closer then five points in the final quarter.
“First of all Chatham-Glenwood is a very good team. If they hit a couple of more 3’s late against Central maybe its a different outcome in the first game,” Panthers coach Ryan Massey said. “We want to play fast. We want to get up and down the floor and we want to create turnovers. I just thought that maybe mentally we played too fast tonight.”
A learning experience for the Panthers
Deep and talented throughout its roster, O’Fallon just couldn’t get shots to fall in the second half on Saturday and seemed a bit frustrated late in the game when it had chances to draw close but fell short.
“Part of the reason I invited these five other teams to play in this tournament was to give us good competition and get us ready for when we open our (Southwestern) conference season in December,” Massey said. “I’ve got a lot of things going through mind right now of things I saw from this basketball team tonight and things we need to work on. We’re going to get right back at it on Sunday and work on things we need to improve on.
“The season is a 30-game journey and this was game one tonight. We’ve got a lot ot talent on this team. We’ll be fine.”
Chatham-Glenwood will play Belleville West in its next tournament game at 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday. O’Fallon will take on Hazelwood Central at 7 p.m. on Monday.
Dean Criddle: 618-239-2661, @CriddleDean