“Once they got it turned, it was a matter of finishing out the game [with] good offensive execution, strong defense and continue to rebound the heck out of the ball like [Jessica] Givens and [Siera] Daniel and [Raven] Black can do, and we were off to the races.”
The Panthers are senior-heavy, and several of those players played two seasons ago when the Panthers lost their semistate matchup to Fort Wayne Concordia.
“Luckily for us, we experienced this our sophomore year, so we were a little more prepared for this than the other team,” Durbin said.
Durbin was hot early when players on both teams struggled with nerves. She hit two triples and a free throw in the opening quarter for seven of Western’s nine points. She finished with nine points and added five steals.
Carley O’Neal and Givens each had 10 points, and Caitlyn O’Neal had eight points, all on free throws in the final quarter. Givens had nine rebounds and Daniel had eight off the bench including five in the fourth quarter, two coming of Western missed free throws. Black added seven caroms and four points.
Western tied the game with 1:19 left in the third quarter on a hoop-and-harm weaving cut to the hoop from Carley O’Neal, then her deuce on an inbounds play put the Panthers ahead for good 39 seconds before the quarter ended.
In the fourth quarter, Western got a deuce from Carley O’Neal and a rebound hoop from Givens to push the lead to 29-23 forcing a Norwell time out. Norwell hit a free throw a minute later, but Western scored the game’s next seven points on the line for a 36-24 lead with 1:14 to play.
“These kids were ready for this moment,” Keisling said. “They played a real nice Norwell team but I think our senior leadership and veteran play, being able to execute there at the end, sealed the deal and was the difference.”