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December 11, 2013

Western girls grab history-laden win at Memorial Gym

Class 3A No. 2-ranked Western led wire to wire in beating Kokomo 40-21 in a girls basketball game Tuesday night at Memorial Gym.

The 50th all-time meeting in the rivalry series turned into a Western party. Consider:

• The Panthers earned their first road win in the series since December 1987.

• They beat the Lady Kats for the second straight year and the third time in four years, their best run of success in the series since taking three of four over the 1987-88 and 1988-89 seasons.

• They held Kokomo to its fewest points in a game in its 40-year history. Kokomo’s previous low was 23 on two occasions, against Logansport in 1983-84 and against Carmel in 2010-11.

• And one last highlight for the Panthers — they improved to 7-0 for the first time since the 1996-97 Western squad opened 7-0 en route to a 17-3 record.

“A lot of good things for this bunch,” Western coach Chris Keisling said.

Keisling credited his seniors for setting the tone in the unbeaten start. He noted every squad has to handle small bumps in the road such as injuries, illnesses and off nights. Western, with an all-senior starting lineup, has enjoyed a smooth ride to this point.

“The adversity becomes smaller and smaller when you have a good group like this because they’re able to battle through it. They’ve been there and done that,” he said.

Keisling’s crew had to overcome a sluggish second quarter against Kokomo. The Panthers jumped to a 5-0 lead and went on for a 9-4 lead at the close of the opening quarter. They had a 12-4 advantage early in the second quarter when they went into an extended scoreless stretch.

Kokomo (4-2) closed to within one on a pair of occasions, 12-11 and 14-13, the latter coming with 5:19 left in the half. The Kats had several chances to take the lead over the next four minutes, but repeatedly came up empty and the Panthers regained control by outscoring the Kats 8-2 over the final 1:19 for a 22-15 halftime lead. Jessica Givens sparked the run with a driving layup and a 3-pointer. Kiersten Durbin added a hoop-and-harm 3-point play off a steal.

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