It was the start of district play for both teams as Forestburg traveled to rival Saint Jo on Friday.
The athletic Panthers held off a valiant Longhorn comeback in the third quarter to win comfortably 55-39.
Saint Jo was coming off a 3-1 performance at the North Central Texas College Holiday tournament the previous weekend while Forestburg had a challenge trying shake the rust off since its last game was Dec. 20.
The game started off slowly in the first quarter. The Longhorns initially handled the Panthers full-court press defense enough not to turn the ball over, but could not make consistent perimeter shots.
Saint Jo moved the ball and found good looks against the Longhorns zone, but were looking for shots at the rim that were tough to find among Forestburg’s big front line.
The Panthers led only 7-5 with a less than three minutes to go in the first quarter when a flurry of Longhorn turnovers against the press led to quick and easy points. Saint Jo went 8-2 to close out the quarter to lead 15-7.
Play continued in the second quarter as Forestburg struggled to score while the Panthers lead continued to grow. Saint Jo led 26-11 at halftime.
The Longhorns turned the game around in the third quarter. Saint Jo’s offense stalled as multiple turnovers were forced in the half court.
This combined with Forestburg breaking the press easier led to scoring chances in transition capitalized by post player Riley Sandusky, who scored 11 points in the quarter after scoring only two in the first half.
Combined with Zach Bradley making two three-pointers, the Longhorns came all the way back to make it a one score game down 29-26 with three minutes to go in the third quarter.
The Panthers called a time out where Coach Lyndon Cook’s message was the team has to be better than this. The team answered as Connor Thompson drove hard to the basket and finished through contact for a three-point play to push the lead to 32-26.
Some steals were converted to points and Saint Jo’s lead was double-digits again 36-26.
Forestburg scored five points in the final 1:28 in the third quarter to cut the lead to 38-31, with the hope it could go on another run to maybe take the lead in the fourth quarter.
Early in the fourth quarter Sandusky picked up his fourth foul. As the main rim protector and fearing he would foul out, the Longhorns moved him to the perimeter in their zone hoping he would not pick up his fifth foul.
This opened things up for the driving Panthers as they relentlessly attacked the rim. Thompson especially feasted as he scored 15 points himself in the final quarter as Saint Jo’s defense again picked up the intensity while limiting transition opportunities.
Forestburg kept the lead within range 45-37 for a chance of a comeback midway through the fourth quarter, but the Panthers went on a 9-2 run in the next two minutes to close the game out. Saint Jo would win 55-39.
Saint Jo does not play again until it travels to Gold-Burg to play at 7 p.m. on Jan. 10. The Longhorns play at Prairie Valley at 7 p.m. on Jan. 10.
To read the full story, pick up a copy of the mid-week edition of the Bowie News.