Late shot falls for Panthers victory

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The ball hung on the rim for at least “two Mississippi’s.” Then, it fell through. Hayden Weissert’s short baseline jumper gave the Alba-Golden Panthers a 55-53 edge with :06 on the clock. Alba-Golden finished the game on an eight-point run and ended their Hawkins Holiday Tournament with a remarkable win over the Hughes Springs Mustangs.

The win may very well be the most character-defining game in the Panthers’ 2019 campaign. To understand just how important that victory could be, one must revisit the initial game of the tournament. 

The Panthers opened against the West Rusk Raiders. The Raiders are a very similar basketball team to the Mustangs: talented, athletic and well-coached. After opening a small advantage in the first quarter, the Panthers trailed by a couple of baskets as the game wore on. Every time they made a run at the lead, the effort was derailed by the course of play. 

With 4:15 remaining, Boedy Baker put back an offensive rebound to tie the game at 32. The comeback took some momentous effort and was led by the offensive pressure of a driving Jon-Michael Chadwick.  Chadwick had an outstanding tournament as he found lanes to the basket which simply weren’t there. 

Once tied, the game took a turn against the Panthers. A turnover, a rebound, an errant pass, and the Raiders capitalized. Alba-Golden could not stem the tide and West Rusk closed the game with a 16-1 run.    

Two days later against Hughes Springs, the Panthers tied the game at 40 early in the final quarter. They lost the lead and trailed by seven midway through the quarter. It was that critical juncture at which one had seen the Panthers fold. Not  this day.

Chadwick found Baker with an excellent assist under the basket to cut the lead. Tim Mitchell put back an offensive rebound to draw within four. The Panthers applied smart backcourt pressure and created a turnover. Chadwick drove down the line for two and a foul. The sequence of intense Panther effort created the moment for Weissert’s game-winning jumper. 

More than that, the win may very well have forged the identity of the 2019 Panthers. As Coach Philo exclaimed, “How is that for an exciting finish!” 

Of note, after a long absence, junior Boedy Baker was cleared for basketball participation after recovery from a lower-leg injury. He and senior teammate Jacob Dailey provide excellent inside defense against the very talented Mustang center, Trayvon Kennedy.

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