Panthers get revenge, defeat Buffaloes in tournament

The Blue Ridge Athletic Conference District Tournament got underway a day late due to weather but the teams tipped off, February 21, without issue at Grainger High School. The Cumberland Gap Panthers opened the tournament up on the boy’s side of the bracket against West Green. West Green defeated the Panthers in the first meeting and during the last meeting the Buffaloes pulled off a last second victory. The Panthers were ready for the third meeting to start.

Coach Cory Cheek when asked for the keys to a Panther win said, “We simply have to make our shots. We must play together and limit our mistakes. I never really know what team will show up but tonight we are down a few players due to sickness and injury.”

When the ball was tipped off the scoring was slow. Jake Templin hit the first basket for the Panthers in the lane and at the 3:44 mark in the first the score was 2-2. Jaden Schertz hit one of two at the stripe and gave the Panthers their first lead at 3-2. Trey Turner hit a basket down low to extend the score to 5-2 and the period ended the same. A low scoring contest felt like would favor the Panthers and at this point was.

During the second period Nate Fuson and Brennan Murphy started a small Panthers run that allowed them to pull out to a 13-7 advantage. West Greene battled back and tied the game at 15 with 5:13 left in the opening half. Schertz hit a three making it 18-13. Templin found room in the paint and scored but the Buffs kept charging back. At 2:41 the score was again tied this time at 20.

Seconds later Holdin McDaniel hit a three but said something towards the Buffalo bench and drew a technical foul. West Greene got to within one point at the free throw line and the Panthers waited for the last shot and missed but the Buffs had enough time to push the ball down the court and after a blocked shot from Murphy hit a playground shot to beat the buzzer and give them the lead at the half, 24-23.

Ball movement was sharp for the Panthers starting the third and they found Murphy for a basket and Caden Brunsma followed it with two in the paint. A three by Fuson gave the Panthers a six point lead. Brunsma drove to the rim again and scored but the Buffs were not allowing them to run away, 36-32. Brunsma added points and the third came to an end with the score of 35-30.

The Gap had one more period to extend their season but West Greene didn’t want to go home either and with 6:32 left were down only one point. Murphy put back a Brunsma miss to extend the lead out to four points, 38-34. Brunsma hit the front end of a one and one but the Buffs went down and hit a three to pull to within three. Schertz hit one of two from the free throw line and West Greene missed a tying three pointer with 1:03 remaining. The Buffs tied it at 40 and Brunsma countered with one for the Panthers to retake the lead at 43-40. The Buffs hit two free throws and were down only one with 27 seconds left. The Buffs tied it at the stripe and left 8.4 seconds for the Panthers to find an open shot. Fuson drove into the lane and hit a shot falling down leaving the Buffs two seconds to work with and the shot was missed giving the Panthers a 45-43 win.

Leading the Panthers in scoring was Fuson with 16, Schertz had nine, Brunsma had eight, Murphy had six, McDaniel had three and Turner had two. Leading West Greene in scoring was Allen Vaughn with 12.

After the game Coach Cheek had this to say, “I’m proud of them, they played hard. Fuson did well and Brunsma likely hit the biggest shot of the night if not his career.”

When asked about what the team needed to work on before the February 22 game against Grainger Cheek added, “We have to take better care of the ball and hit more shots, Grainger is a very good team.”