Strong finish saves Panthers from Whitehorse upset
In some games, the shots may not fall. Whether it's a missed layup or a 3-point attempt, the ball may not always find the bottom of the basket. For the Pinnacle High Boys basketball team, a horrid shooting performance through three quarters was offset by a strong finish aided by a strong defense in the final minutes that helped keep their Region 19 perfect record intact with a 49-35 win over Whitehorse on Saturday afternoon.
Senior Dalton Rudman, who struggled through much of the first half, finally found his shot in the final quarter as he hit three 3-pointers to help the Panthers gain a lead they would not relinquish against a pesky Whitehorse squad that kept things close through three quarters.
Whitehorse held Pinnacle to just 19 first half points, which was Pinnacle's second lowest first half point total since their game against Beaver on Dec. 14 (15 points).
Pinnacle led 19-17 at halftime but in the third quarter Whitehorse began to take control as the Panthers continue to struggle on offense. Whitehorse outscored the Panthers 12-9 in the quarter to take a 29-28 lead into the fourth quarter. The Raiders succeed by slowing down the pace of the game which contradicts Pinnacle's fast-paced style of offense.
Senior Taje Richardson helped give the Panthers the lead for good after a layup off a fast-break attempt at 30-29 with over 7 minutes left. From there Rudman took over for the Panthers as he hit a 3-pointer to extend the lead to 33-29 with 6:45 left. Rudman added another 3-pointer and junior Javanni Alyzayyat chipped in a layup to give Pinnacle their largest lead of the game at 38-29. Finally Rudman added his final 3-pointer of the night with 4:12 left to build the lead to 43-29.
"We were off tonight on offense," said Richardson. "We need to concentrate on not having any meltdowns on offense. We fed off our aggressive defense to help get the win tonight."
Rudman led the Panthers with 18 points and 7 rebounds. Richardson finished with 11 points, 7 rebounds and 8 steals. Alyzayyat added 11 points.
Late in the game as Pinnacle was still struggling to find the basket on offense, Richardson said head coach Andrew Olson told the team of the importance of the Region 19 game and working hard to protect the home court advantage Pinnacle has built this season going undefeated (6-0).
"Coach Olson just told us that it's a Region 19 game on our home floor and it was gut-check time," Richardson explained.
Pinnacle is now 10-2 on the season and 4-0 in Region 19 play. Despite struggling on offense through much of the game, Richardson said the game is a reminder for the team to work hard each and every game.
"We need to go out each game and play with a chip on our shoulder," he said. "We need to just concentrate on playing our game and we know that we can matchup with any team in the region."