Pennfield has joined a new league this season, but its first game out of the blocks was against an old rival from the Panthers’ former league.
Pennfield defeated Olivet, 53-39, in a non-conference boys’ basketball game in the season opener for both teams on Tuesday.
Pennfield and Olivet were both members of the Kalamazoo Valley Association last year, but each has moved out of that league and headed in different directions. Pennfield, now in the Interstate 8 Conference, and Olivet, now of the Greater Lansing Athletic Conference, will have new rivals this year. But on Tuesday, it seemed like old times.
“We had to come up with some non-league games with our new schedule and it was easy to grab some KVA teams because they needed to fill some spots, too,” Pennfield coach Steve Grimes said. “I think because of that they were pretty prepared for us. I’ve been here, they have been in the league, so they know us a little bit so that was an advantage for them. That showed in the first half, especially with the way they came out strong.”
The win takes Pennfield to 1-0 overall as the Panthers get ready for their first Interstate 8 game on Friday on the road against Parma Western.
“That win was extremely important for us. We talk about our new schedule playing in our new league and we will be playing some bigger schools all year than we have been,” Grimes said. “So, take nothing away from Olivet, but the schedule will get tougher as we go, so getting this first one is big for us.”
Pennfield’s Ryan Lowe (44) drives the basket as Olivet’s Nicholas Johnson (45) goes on defense.
Pennfield trailed early and only led 31-29 at halftime. Olivet came out and was hitting shots, making four 3-pointers before intermission.
“We were down seven or eight points in that first half, so I thought we might be in a little trouble. But I like how we responded,” Grimes said.
In the second half, Pennfiled held Olivet to just nine total points. The Eagles, playing their first game under a new head coach in Travis Brown, seemed to get away from their gameplan after halftime.
“In the first half, we didn’t do a a bad job using our system,” Brown said. “But there is going to be a learning curve for us. The kids are getting used to a new system and in the second half, we got away from that and that hurt.”
The Panthers first started to pull away as Brandun Rugg hit a short jumper to make it 44-36 as Pennfield started the fourth quarter on a 6-2 run.
Pennfield was able to put the game away when Rugg was fouled from behind on a fastbreak midway through the fourth. There was an intentional foul called on the play. Rugg made one free throw and then, getting the ball, the Panthers’ Ryan Lowe scored on a layup to take it to a double-digit lead at 47-36 with 3:36 remaining.
Lowe, Pennfield’s 6-foot-10 senior center, finished with 13 points, 11 rebounds and six blocks.
“They had a good gameplan for Lowe, but we figured out a way to get him the ball. We also played off of him a bit and our other big Steffen Kinne had a good game,” Grimes said. “We are also playing five guards, a freshman, a sophomore and three seniors, and I think they all played well, too.”
Rugg added 12 points and six rebounds with Kody Moore getting 11 points and eight rebounds, Kinne chipped in eight points, eight rebounds and four blocks as freshman Grant Peterson added eight points.
Brendan Whitely led Olivet (0-1) with 14 points.