RUSSIAVILLE — Although Western suffered a 62-59 loss to visiting Twin Lakes Saturday night, the Panthers showed the type of grit and perseverance that could pay dividends down the road.
Struggling from the field all night and down by nine with 20.8 seconds to play at 62-53, the Panthers nearly clawed even before the final buzzer sounded.
Twin Lakes hit 13 of its first 15 free-throw attempts through the first 7:40 of the fourth quarter after spending the entire period in the bonus. But the Indians missed their last five freebies, and Western’s Des Balentine made them pay.
Balentine hit a pull-up 3 from the top of the key with 17.1 seconds left to pull Western within 62-56. Coming out of a timeout, the Panthers fouled again, where Twin Lakes couldn’t convert on either end of the double bonus.
Balentine again pulled up from the right wing and buried another triple to make it 62-59 with 9.8 seconds to play.
Twin Lakes again missed both free throws after a foul with 7.2 seconds left. Balentine got the ball on the right wing on the other end with three seconds to play, but his contested 3-point attempt hit the front of the rim and rolled off as the buzzer sounded.
“I’m very proud of our guys,” Western coach Bart Miller said. “We could’ve folded up shop there down nine, but our guys didn’t. They stuck to the gameplan as far as getting down the floor quick and getting a two or 3. We were able to knock down a couple 3s there and stop the clock, and got it down to three. We got a look at the end, but it just didn’t fall.”
The Panthers (8-5), stayed within striking distance despite a sub-par shooting night from the field (20 for 54 overall, 11 for 29 from 3). They were just 8 of 24 in the first half, but hit 6 of 14 from 3-point range to stay within 28-25 at the half after trailing 15-9 at the first stop.