Runnin’ Panthers drop district contest to Salado

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By Keith Sparks

The Runnin’ Panthers lost their first district game of the season on Tuesday in Salado, losing by a final score of 79-74 in a game that was closely contested throughout.

The Panthers made an unreal 17 three-pointers in the game, but Salado dominated inside.

The game was tied at 37-37 at halftime, but Salado outscored the Panthers 21-15 in the third quarter to take a six-point lead headed into the fourth.

The Panthers had a chance to tie in the closing seconds of the game, but their hot shooting ran out as they missed two threes within the last 12 seconds of the game. Boren said he couldn’t fault his guys for shooting those late threes, considering how hot they’d been shooting all game.

“We hit 17 threes, but we had nothing inside,” Boren said. “Carson (Perkins) hit seven, and Kaleb (Bannon) hit six, but we had nothing going inside. We were down by 10 with two minutes to go. We cut it to three and got a steal with 12 seconds to go, and instead of shooting a layup, Carson pulls up from three, but he’s already hit seven, so you can’t question that. Kaleb gets a rebound, and instead of shooting a layup, he backs out and shoots a three, and again, you say well, he just hit six of them.”

Despite the loss, Boren said a closely-contested district game like that could pay dividends down the road. They hadn’t played a close game in months, so being forced to execute down the stretch is something that may give them an advantage later on in the season.

“Our closest game to that point had been, like, 17 maybe,” Boren said. “If you have no close games when you get into the playoffs, then you have one, it can come as a shock. On the other hand, here’s Salado that beat Burnet by one, beat Taylor by two, beat Lampasas by four, then they beat us by five, so all their games have been close. They’re playing a game like that every time they go out and play. The logical way of looking at it is to say well, maybe they’re going to slip up one of those games and lose, and we’ve just got to make sure that we don’t.”

Boren chalked the loss up to the Salado coaching staff making the right adjustments after taking a beating from the Panthers the last time the two teams met up. Unfortunately, Boren probably won’t have another turn to do the same with his team.

“Here’s the other deal, the second time you play someone, you always make adjustments,” Boren said. “When you beat somebody by 27 points like we did last time, what adjustments are you going to make? They made a couple, so if we had to play them again, now it’d be my turn to make the adjustments.”

According to Boren, the biggest adjustment Salado made was simply letting the Panthers shoot the three ball, as long as they weren’t getting good looks in the paint. Thanks to their 6’6” post that scored 21 points and had a handful of blocks, they were able to execute.

“I’m angry about this,” Boren said. “I’m not mad at the kids, necessarily, but I’m mad at myself. Now, after the fact, you say well, we could have done this and could have done that. We used a couple plays that I just put in on Monday, but they said we might make some threes, but they weren’t going to give us anything inside.”

Carson Perkins led the way offensively for the Panthers with 25 points and seven three-pointers, followed by Kaleb Bannon with 18 points and six three-pointers. Parker McCurdy added 14 points on three three-pointers.

Now, Liberty Hill and Salado are tied for first in district play with a 5-1 district record, so it’s up to somebody else in the district to knock Salado off and give Liberty Hill sole possession of first place.

On Friday, the Panthers handed Lampasas a 69-41 loss behind a well-balanced offensive performance. Four players scored in double figures and eight players scored at least two points. Bannon, McCurdy, and Jareck Naylor each had 12, Perkins had 10, and Hunter Clayton added nine.

On Friday, the Panthers play Eastside Memorial in Austin at 7:30 p.m.

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