Putnam County falls to Seneca in title game, 39-27
SENECA — Dealing with the pressure put on by an opponent is something that every basketball team must learn to handle if it is to be successful and, for the most part of what has so far been a pretty successful season for the Putnam County Lady Panthers, they’ve managed to handle it.
But they weren’t at all used to what Seneca threw at them on Jan. 23.
The Lady Irish pressured PC from endline to endline, from the opening tip to the final buzzer, and used a little falter by the Lady Panthers spanning the last two quarters to come away with a 39-27 victory and the Tri-County Conference Tournament championship.
Putnam County jumped out to a 7-0 lead and, using a game-best 14 points from senior Sophia Harris, took a 20-18 lead on an Avery Lamis bucket with 4 minutes, 25 seconds left in the third period. However, the Lady Panthers were already beginning to wilt under the top-seed’s endless pressure, and allowed Seneca to score the next 12 points and finish the game outscoring PC 21-6 over the final 11 minutes to pick up their first TCC Tourney title.
“I thought our press was doing what it needed to do in the first half,” said Seneca coach Ted O’Boyle, whose club outboarded PC 31-27 behind Mara Bruno’s game-best 11. “(Putnam County) coach (Jared) Sale does a really nice job, so I knew in the second half they’d have a good plan. Still, I felt we could wear them down if we continued to stay aggressive and that’s what happened. We wore them down. We weren’t allowing them to get into the offensive sets that they run so well to get the shots they did in the first half. We just contested really well in the second half and I’m really proud of the effort.
“We have to find a way to get off the bus. We were down 9-0 the other night and 7-0 tonight, so we have to figure out a way to get jump-started right away. … We just needed to hit a shot and once we did, we relaxed, got in a flow and played our game.”
A trey by Caitlyn Cioni and two deuces from Harris, coupled with three turnovers and 0-for-5 start from the field by Seneca, got No. 3-seeded PC out to a 7-0 lead. But a pair of buckets by Cassidy Draves led a 6-0 run that created a nip-and-tuck battle that lasted the next two quarters, through 10-10 and 16-16 ties after the first and second stanzas.
It wasn’t until the Lamis shot in the lane for Putnam County’s last lead that things changed. Brooklyn Giertz bounced in a shot from the key to tie it again before two scores by 6-2 center Madi Bromberek around a free throw by Carly Greve gave the hosts a 26-20 advantage through three.
A banked-in trey from the right wing by Rita Jashari and a toss from Bruno completed the 12-0 burst with Seneca in control against the tiring, offensively-struggling Lady Panthers, who finished shooting 27 percent (10-of-37) for the night.
Meanwhile, the Lady Irish ended up hitting at a 33 percent (15-of-45) pace from the field and to 7-of-11 from the line, a vast improvement over 20-of-40 in the Jan. 20 semifinal against Roanoke-Benson.
“We like to slow it down and they like to play fast and make the game chaos and you don’t get a break. It’s 32 minutes of non-stop, at-your-throat pressure you don’t see very often,” said Sale. “That endline to endline pressure all night long is going to be hard to deal with because it exhausts you and when you see it only once or twice a year, it wore on us.
“To be honest, I thought we did a really nice job in the first half only turning the ball over seven times, but in the second half, they turned it up just a little bit and we made some silly mistakes. We didn’t take advantage of what was given to us in the first half and that proved costly later. They started knocking down some shots and pulled away a little bit and we got in too big a hurry. I can’t blame a sense of urgency, but when that comes, we still have to play within ourselves and not go too fast … but this has made us stronger and hopefully it will pay dividends when we get into the postseason.”