JAMESTOWN - Panama coach Ed Nelson thinks he watched more film on Forestville than any other team he has ever watched in his coaching career.
All that film study and an aggressive defense helped his No. 3 Panthers hold off No. 2 Forestville, 67-59, Wednesday in a Section 6 Class D boys basketball semifinal game at Jamestown Community College.
"You can't take anyone lightly," Nelson said. "We beat them twice already this year, but it didn't mean anything. It's the old mantra: Survive and advance. No matter if it's by one or 50, we are happy to be where we are at."
OBSERVER?Photo by Lisa Monacelli
Forestville’s Wayne Hartloff (44) goes up for a shot during his team’s Section 6 Class D boys basketball semifinal against Panama, on?Wednesday, at Jamestown Community College.
The Panthers were able to jump in front of the Hornets' passing lanes and quickly turned the turnovers into transition points for most of the first half.
Panama finished the first quarter on a 12-4 run as it easily broke Forestville's press when it wasn't scoring in transition. The run was capped off by a buzzer beater by Dan O'Dell.
In the second quarter, the Panthers scored all but three of their points off Forestville turnovers to build a 35-22 halftime cushion.
"We were careless with the ball," Forestville coach Ralph Jackson lamented. "We couldn't have that, it doesn't matter who you're playing. We had way too many turnovers the first time we played them and again (Wednesday)."
Panama came out hot in the third quarter as it once again capitalized on Forestville turnovers, going on a 8-0 run to start the half, six of which were scored in transition. At one point, the Panthers held a 20-point advantage at 43-23 with 6:18 left in the third quarter.
Aiding in the big third quarter for Panama was the play of Ricky Eddy, who scored all nine of his points in the quarter.
"Ricky is one of our seniors and has been struggling the last few games," Nelson noted. "He worked hard on his shot the last few days. I'm proud of him. He deserved it."
The Hornets slowly started creeping their way back into the game in the closing minutes of the third quarter and trailed 56-40 heading into the final eight minutes.
"Even when we were up 20, I knew it wasn't over," Nelson said. "Forestville has a good basketball team. Their press hurt us when they backed off. I knew it wasn't over."
"We tried to slide the press back some and make them come to us and it started to work," Jackson added. "Unfortunately we didn't do that soon enough."
The Hornets opened up the fourth quarter with a 9-2 run, highlighted by a traditional three-point play by Wayne Hartloff, to cut the deficit, 58-49. Sharef Corley scored eight points in the final frame, including a trey to make it an eight-point game. After Dylan Szumigala and Jake Nosbisch hit consecutive buckets, the Hornets trailed just 63-59 with 55 seconds left. The four-point deficit was the closest the game had been since the score was 10-6 in the first quarter.
"We just kept playing," Jackson said. "We kept scrapping like there was no tomorrow. We knew the clock was winding down. We have gone on runs before. I told them it wasn't out of reach and to fight for every ball you can. They kept playing. It was a 20-point lead at one point and we cut it to four. I can't say enough about this group of kids. It's tough."
The Panthers held on for the win as Dan O'Dell and Josh O'Dell hit both ends of a 1-and-1 in the final seconds for the win.
"We have been doing it all year," Nelson said of the key free throws at the end. "Playing Cassadaga Valley and Sherman and those schools every night, we are battling in the league. If we aren't hitting free throws, we aren't winning."
Panama's Dan O'Dell finished with 14 points and Greg Delahoy had 10 points of his own for the winners.
Hartloff led Forestville with 15 points while Corley chipped in 14 and Jake Nosbisch added 10 for the Hornets.
"They are great kids," Jackson said of his team. "My three seniors - Wayne, Connor Stone and Nosbisch - you can't ask for three better senior leaders. This program is going to miss them, but we are going in the right direction thanks to kids like them."
Panama now takes on No. 1 seed Sherman in the Class D finals Friday at 5:30 p.m., at Jamestown Community College.