Cameron Parker drives down the lane during the Hornets loss to Pinckneyville on February 28.
By Brent Huelsmann
After two years of heartbreak at the hand of the Hornets, the Panthers finally came out on top in the postseason. In 2016, Jaris Dalman found Royce Newman right before the buzzer to give the Hornets 47-45 win on Pinckneyville’s home floor. In 2017, Brandon Schnitker threw up a circus shot at the buzzer to send Pinckneyville packing. This season, the Hornets magic ran out as Pinckneyville overcame a strong start by the Hornets to grab a 55-33 win. The Hornets ended the season with a record of 23-8.
Nashville got out of the gates quick as the Hornets rushed out to a 6-0 lead over the Panthers, but the lead would not last. The Panthers started hot from behind the arc as all of their first quarter points came from outside the three point line. Pinckneyville would tie the game at 6, but the Hornets again would take the lead. Nashville led 12-9 late before JC Moll knocked down a three right at the buzzer to tie the game after one quarter of play. After the game, Panthers coach Bob Waggoner talked about the shot. “I think the play at the end of the first quarter with Moll’s three really changed the momentum. Our kids let into it in the second quarter and really our guys spread them a little more than what they like, thought it was hard for their post kids to guard on the perimeter and gave us a lot of open looks.”
Pinckneyville controlled the second quarter as they took the lead early in the frame. A turning point in the game came when the Panthers capitalized on three straight Hornets turnovers, turning them into nine quick points. It was part of an 11-0 run that turned a 17-16 Nashville lead, into a 27-17 Pinckneyville advantage. The Hornets would stop their scoreless run with a late free throw but trailed 29-18 at halftime.
Nashville got back within single digits to open the third, but Pinckneyville used a 9-0 run to push the lead to 18. At the end of three, the Hornets trailed the Panthers 42-27.
In the fourth, the Panthers were in cruise control as the Hornets never got back within 15 as Pinckneyville kept Nashville at bay, and went on to a 55-33 win.
Hornets coach Wayne Harre praised the Panthers after the game. “They were just the better team tonight, let’s be honest. They were a little stronger, they were a little quicker on the floor, quicker to loose balls, and it’s just one of those things. You have to give Pinckneyville credit, they were just better tonight.” Harre went on to praise his players. “I told them, I couldn’t ask for a better group of seniors. Did everything we asked of them. One thing about it they played hard everytime. Being a new coach coming in, trying to adapt to a new thing that you’re going to do. It makes a difference. I really appreciate the leadership they gave us, and I couldn’t be prouder of a group of guys.”
Coach Waggoner was proud of the defensive execution during the game. “I thought our execution of our defensive game plan was as good as we could have. We limited their second opportunities. We kept their drivers in front of us, did an excellent job of switching and talking through it, and making sure they didn’t get open lanes to the rim.”
The Hornets were led by Bryce Bultman who finished with 10 points in the win as the only Nashville player in double figures. Matt Anderson finished with nine points, followed by Carson Parker with six points. Cameron Parker and Jake Haley each finished with four points to round out the scoring.
Pinckneyville was led by Grant Jausel with 16 points.