Senior Divine Lane led a balanced O’Fallon attack with 11 points and a strong Panthers man-to-man defense held the Belleville West Maroons in check throughout as the Panthers defeated their SWC rival 48-34 at the Panther Dome.
Lane used her athleticism and size to control in the post area, while guards Marta Durk and Jayla Stubblefield added 10 points each for the Panthers (8-2, 5-1), who stretched their winning streak to five to take over sole possession of second place in the SWC behind undefeated Edwardsville.
With Stubblefield and Eboni Acoff hitting 3-point shots and scoring five points each, O’Fallon jumped out to a 16-9 first quarter lead against the cold-shooting Maroons, who also found themselves in early foul trouble after Sydney Thurwalker and B’Aunce Carter each picked up two fouls.
With the Maroons in foul trouble, it opened up the middle for the 5-foot-10 Divine to score five points in the second quarter as O’Fallon took a 29-19 lead at halftime.
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“With Celeste (Akoro) injured, its opened up a chance for Divine (Lane) to play, and she’s really responded well,” coach Ryan Massey said. “She’s got good size, and she’s got good agility. She can get up and down the floor, and I thought she played very well against a very strong and talented Belleville West squad.”
In all, nine players scored at least two points in the first quarter. On the other side, West committed 11 of its 21 turnovers in the first half and was soundly beaten on both the offensive and defensive boards.
O’Fallon had six offensive rebounds during one first half possession.
“We said early on that a large part of our season will be determined on how we rebound. They (O’Fallon) beat us badly on both ends of the floor on the boards,” West coach Seth Garrett said. “We just were flat tonight, and I have no reason for it. If I did, I would tell you.
“Early in the season we came out of the gate well. Tonight we looked slow and like I said we weren’t ready to play.”
The difference in the game was the O’Fallon defense. Playing a straight man-to-man and switching to perfection, the Panthers broke out to a 12-point lead before settling for a 10-point cushion at halftime.
“I was hoping to get a look at and use some other defenses tonight. But our man-to-man was so good that I figured, ‘why switch,’ Massey said. “This is as good a man-to-man defensive team that I’ve had since I’ve been here. These girls switch, and they help out so well.”
Still, West had a chance. Trailing 33-22 midway in the third quarter, West got an offensive putback by Carter and a 3-point basket by Chamya Darough to cut the lead to 33-27.
But Stubblefield scored on a short jumper and added a 3-pointer on consecutive trips down the floor to increase the lead 38-27 with seconds left in the period.
O’Fallon led by as many as 17 points in the fourth quarter before both coaches emptied their benches with less than two minutes left.