You could call it a tale of two halves as the Saint Jo Panthers traveled to take on district opponent Prairie Valley on Tuesday night.
With the Panthers coming in confident at 3-0 with hopes of challenging for the district title, the Bulldogs were coming in off of their first district win at Forestburg hoping to ride that momentum into another win.
Despite a good showing at frustrating and slowing down Saint Jo throughout the first half, Prairie Valley eventually succumbed to the long and athletic Panthers in the third quarter and lost 62-35.
Early on, the Bulldogs were able to take control. After quickly falling behind 5-0 while getting acclimated to the Panthers relentless press defense, Prairie Valley was able to knock in some perimeter shots and matched Saint Jo’s intensity.
For the Panthers, leading scorer Preston Lyons got himself into foul trouble in the first quarter that forced him to sit. With the Bulldogs navigating Saint Jo’s press and avoiding turnovers that immediately led to baskets, Prairie Valley led 13-9 heading into the second quarter.
It did not take long for the Panthers to turn things around as they started the second quarter scoring six straight points in the first minute and half.
The threes that fell for the Bulldogs in the first quarter were not in the second quarter as they struggled to score. For Saint Jo, Lyons and Logan Morman were able to drive the lane and get to the free throw line continuously in the second quarter as they both combined to score 16 of the teams 18 points in the quarter.
The Panthers led 27-21 heading into halftime, but Prairie Valley was still very much in the game if they could start making shots or find other ways to score in the second half.
Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, that did not happen. While the Bulldogs flirted with trying to take advantage of playing the up-tempo game Saint Jo was baiting them into playing in the first half by breaking their press, in the second half the Panthers pulled back their press to half court.
While Prairie Valley was able to avoid big runs from Saint Jo by taking care of the ball for the most part, things seemed to unwind for them in the third quarter. Passes that made it through in the first half now were getting stolen and deflected by the long arms of the Panthers.
Those turnovers were leading to fast and easy baskets. In the half court Saint Jo could do whatever they wanted offensively as some of their perimeter shots were going in and the drives to the basket seemed to be coming more open.
This led to several key Bulldog players getting into foul trouble, exacerbating their struggles on the offensive end even more.
What was a six point lead at halftime was stretched to 20 as the Panthers led 46-26 heading into the fourth quarter.
There would be no miracle comeback for Prairie Valley in front of their home crowd. With Saint Jo springing the press on them at situational moments when they were most vulnerable and with the game out of reach, things did not get better as both teams just played until the clock turned zero down the stretch.
The Panthers won 62-35.
To read the full story, pick up a copy of the weekend edition of the Bowie News.