Pana holds on to get shot at championship
After already playing each other twice this season, basketball teams Nokomis and Pana Boys had a pretty good idea of what to expect for their championship semifinal at the Rick McGraw Memorial Invitational on Friday, January 21.
After losing to the Panthers at the Vandalia Holiday Tournament and in their final regular season game before the Litchfield Tournament, Nokomis hoped to ride out the bump and hand Pana their second loss of the season.
Unfortunately, the match turned out to be much like their last meeting on January 13, a back and forth that ended in a narrow victory for Pana, this time by a final score of 44-38.
During the first three quarters, the score was never more than two possessions apart, with the defense playing a key role for both teams. Pana started the game with a 4-0 advantage, but Nokomis came back to level at 6-6 after four points from Elijah Aumann and two from Reece Lohman.
Pana would get the last bucket of the first quarter to take an 8-6 lead, but Aumann and Lohman’s combo paid off early in the second frame for Nokomis. After Aumann scored the first field goal, Lohman put in the next two and Nokomis took their first lead, 12-8 with 4:10 left in the first half.
Pana was held scoreless for the first five minutes and 20 seconds of the second quarter but beat Nokomis 5-2 after earning their first points to keep the Redskins close. Lohman had the other basket for the Redskins and Nokomis led 14-13 entering the locker room.
In the third quarter, Nokomis again held Pana scoreless on the field for a long stretch, but the Panthers’ own defense and three free throws kept the game close, with Nokomis leading 18-16 with 4:35 left in the quarter. . .
Pana regained the lead on a Kyle Kuhn three, the first of the game for either team, but Aumann got it back on a field goal with 3:27 left in the third. The 20-19 lead would be the last Nokomis would hold as Pana went on a 7-0 run to take a 26-20 lead with a minute remaining.
Aumann broke the streak with his fourth bucket of the quarter and his 14th point of the game, but Nokomis was still trailing 26-22 after three quarters.
Pana took their biggest lead of the game 30 seconds into the fourth quarter when Devon Peebles hit a three that made it 29-22. Nokomis would hit back, scoring on a Jake Johnson jumper, but Pana responded with a two and the lead was back at seven, 31-24, with six minutes remaining.
Nokomis needed two things to get back into the game: 1. They had to score. 2. They needed Pana to stop scoring. The first of those needs came to fruition, as Nokomis scored 14 points in the final six minutes. The other was harder to find as Pana scored 13 points in the same period, nine of which came from the free throw line.
The Redskins closed to four late in the game, but the Panthers’ prowess through the charity strip kept them ahead and moved them through to the championship game against Mattoon on Saturday.
Elijah Aumann would lead Nokomis with 19 points, while Reece Lohman added eight and Ryan Eisenbarth finished with seven. Jake Johnson added five points, all of which came in the fourth quarter as Nokomis tried to make a comeback.
Pana was led by Brenden Schoonover and Devon Peebles with 14 and 12 respectively. Both players would go on to be named in the All-Tournament Squad at Litchfield, along with Aumann, who was the tournament’s top scorer.
January 21 in Litchfield
Invitation Rick McGraw
Nokomis 6 8 8 16 38
Panama 8 5 13 18 44
Nokomis (36) – Elijah Aumann 19, Reece Lohman 8, Ryan Eisenbarth 7, Jake Johnson 5. Totals: 14 10-15 36.
Panama (44) – Brenden Schoonover 14, Devon Peebles 12, Collin Schmitz 8, Kyle Kuhn 5, Drew Hackler 5. Totals: 13 16-28 44.
Three-point field goals: Nokomis 0; Pana 2 (Kuhn 1, Peebles 1).
Recordings: Nokomis (11-9); Pana (19-1).