Panthers survive first round of playoffs

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By KEITH SPARKS

After getting off to a slow start, the Panther boys’ basketball team woke up and put a beating on La Grange in the first round of the playoffs, winning by a final score of 92-44. They were forced to do so without their starting shooting guard, Parker McCurdy, who found out on Saturday that he’d have to have his appendix removed.

According to Head Coach Barry Boren, McCurdy’s presence typically allows starting point guard Carson Perkins to have more room to work with. Without him on the floor, La Grange was able to send multiple defenders at Perkins, which forced them the Panthers to struggle in the first quarter.

“We missed him tonight, because in the first quarter, La Grange ran this diamond one defense, and usually Parker is the one that keeps the heat off of Carson, so we struggled,” Boren said

Senior Bryce Truslow had arguably his best game of the season in McCurdy’s absence, scoring 21 points and hitting three three-pointers. In the second and third quarters combined, Truslow scored 19, which Boren said had a lot to do with building their lead.

“We made some adjustments and kind of finally woke up,” Boren said. “Bryce went off in the third quarter, and he needed to, because he had a bad first quarter with three turnovers. Once our guys kind of figured out what they were doing, and that we could maneuver around that, really the big thing was we got better in the press and they got tired. We started scoring a lot of different ways. The starters didn’t play hardly at all in the fourth quarter, and we were able to empty the bench.”

Boren was glad the Panthers had an opportunity to learn how to play without their starting shooting guard early on, as opposed to being forced to figure it out later in the playoffs.

“It was a good win,” Boren said. “We started slow, but it was nice to have that game where you can kind of get a little bit acclimated to playing without Parker.”

McCurdy’s doctor advised that he not play for at least another two weeks, which may allow him to play in the Regional Tournament, if the Panthers make it there. For now, Boren has moved senior Riley LaDuque into the starting lineup and has moved Cade Cole and Jareck Naylor up from the junior varsity team.

“I put Riley (LaDuque) in there, and a couple weeks ago I moved Cade Cole to the varsity,” Boren said. “I really think that Cade, having played on the JV for the whole year, really got to play a lot and got to build his confidence, so I think that was a good move. What’s happened is, now Cade’s playing in the rotation, and he’s doing a really good job. In fact, in the second quarter tonight, he gave us a lift because he was just playing so dang hard. We moved Riley into the lineup and we moved Jareck (Naylor) into the backup spot, so I think Jareck is the same way. He had a really good JV season, developed his confidence, and tonight he hit a three and a couple shots. Jareck can be a very credible player. Certainly, we’ll miss Parker, but thank God we’ve got a couple guys that can do some stuff.”

In addition to Truslow’s team-high 21 points, Neil Stephens added 12, Carson Perkins added 11, Chad Leath added 10, LaDuque added 9, and David Basalla added 8.

Liberty Hill will play Lorena next, who beat Madisonville in the first round by a final score of 57-53.

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