Now that was playoff basketball.
On Wednesday night at St. Philip High in the second round of the Class D district playoffs, the Climax-Scotts Panthers advanced to the district championship by defeating St. Phillip in a thriller, 39-36.
Climax-Scotts (13-8) will next play the Martin Clippers at 6 p.m. Friday for the district title. Martin defeated Calhoun Christian, 53-30, in Wednesday’s first game.
“Districts impact all (the) kids,” said first-year Tiger coach Tony Warren, whose squad finished the campaign at 12-9 and had beaten Kalamazoo Heritage Christian in Monday’s district opener. “The level of intensity is up, nervousness comes into play, (and) we are a young ball club.”
“This is a big win,” said Panther coach Joshua Vick. “This is a great rivalry — they’d beaten us twice. We were dead even all season except in the head-to-head (matchups). For us, if we didn’t get to play those guys again, it would have felt like a hollow season.”
Both teams clamped down on the defense early, but St. Phil drew first blood by creating a 5-0 lead. However, a few minutes later, and it was C-S’s turn to retaliate, going on a 7-0 run and taking the lead in the process.
“We haven’t defended that well against them yet,” said Vick, whose team eliminated several second-chance points Wednesday. “We worked on being better in the paint. They hit some shots from the outside, but those are lower-percentage shots….We brought the defense tonight.”
The second half started with the Panthers forcing turnovers which led into transition points. With 4:18 left in the third quarter, behind a Panthers’ 6-0 run, C-S had created a seven-point lead, 27-20.
“There is nothing Climax did to us, it’s just in the first half we shot poorly,” said Warren, who believes his team had good looks, but just couldn’t capitalize. “We got every shot attempt that we wanted, and shot 17 percent from the perimeter. It’s hard to beat a team when you’re not hitting perimeter shots.”
A 3-pointer by Tiger guard Megan Gordon with 3:46 left in the game cut the deficit to three points, 31-28, as the Panthers missed six consecutive free throws and failed to extend its lead late.
“I told them we were still winning,” Vick said. “We were still in the lead. The pressure was still on them (St. Phil) to score a couple of extra points. We are very young, (and) I told them to keep their composure…. It’s a big win.”
Despite that late surge by St. Phil to cut the deficit within a few points, C-S held off the comeback and won by three.
Leading the way for C-S, Mary Smith had 11 points and seven boards, while Sydney Macomber had 11 points, five rebounds and three assists.
For St. Phil, guard Emily Freybler led all scorers with 17 points, while grabbing four rebounds.
Martin 53, Calhoun Christian 30: Calhoun Christian’s season ended with a 14-6 record after the Cougars lost Wednesday’s first game at the St. Philip site. Both Martin and Calhoun Christian had first-round byes Monday. Claire Tribbett led the Cougars with 16 points in the loss, while Emily Williams had six points and eight rebounds and Haley Flach had five points.