Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
PIKETON — Coming into the season, many picked Southeastern to win the Scioto Valley Conference outright.
And that may still very well happen.
But if it’s to take place, Panthers coach Doug Hice is adamant about one thing … there’s tons of work to be done.
On Thursday, in the team’s SVC opener, it underwent an early test. The Panthers passed, squeaking out a 43-39 win over visiting Piketon — one that had Hice biting his nails.
“It seemed like we were just sluggish all night long. We came off a big loss on Tuesday and the kids really played their guts out that night,” Hice said. “I don’t know if we were mentally worn down or what the problem was. We’re looking for leadership right now. Anybody at this time. That’s our problem. We’re not the same team as we were last year. We’ve got the potential to get there for sure. But right now, we’ve got work to do.”
While the usual suspects of Macie Graves, Cidney Huff and Audrey Scott led the team in scoring, the Panthers (1-1, 1-0 SVC) got a huge boost off the bench from freshman Gabby Pernell.
Throughout the contest, Pernell nagged Piketon’s offense with a never-quit motor. But she was never better than she was late in the game, forcing two turnovers and scoring twice to force a two-possession game with just seconds left.
“She came into the basketball game and really gave us a spark,” Hice said of Pernell. “She’s a freshman. We’ve been trying to work on her shot. It’s got a little hitch in it. But we’ve been working with her. When we’re trying to get up and get after teams, she’s a perfect fit. She’s quick, smart and she understands the game. It’s a good thing we had her tonight.”
Right out of the gate, Piketon’s Bailey Vulgamore hit a triple to put the Redstreaks (1-1, 0-1 SVC) in front. That lead would last until the end of the first quarter at 7-5.
But behind Graces and Huff, the Panthers polished off a 6-0 run to take an 11-7 lead with 6:32 to go in the second. Scott and Huff then combined for back-to-back buckets, making it an 18-9 edge at the 3:42 mark, before Southeastern took a 20-13 edge into halftime.
In the third, Piketon cut the deficit to 22-17 before Graves dialed long distance with 4:38 remaining. Graves scored again to make it 27-19 before the two traded buckets, producing a 29-21 tally heading into the fourth.
And that’s when the Redstreaks decided they’d play lockdown defense.
Trailing 34-23 with 6:40 left in regulation, Jazz Lamerson and Kennedy Jenkins spearheaded a 14-3 run, forcing a 37-37 deadlock that spanned just over three minutes.
“That’s a great young team,” Hice said of Piketon. “It seems like length bothers us. Piketon has tall, lengthy guards. They’ve also got two nice post players. They’re going to be a handful for teams. They were a little bit like us tonight. They struggled a bit offensively. But that’s the only thing they struggled with. Their defense was outstanding. [Piketon coach Brett] Coreno is one of the best coaches in the league. He gets it done every year.”
Pernell, in a huge spot, scored her only bucket of the night with 2:31 to go, putting Southeastern back on top at 39-37. Lamerson then got a lay-in to fall on the other end, making it 39-39.
However, over the next two minutes, Southeastern got the stops it needed defensively. Meanwhile, Sierra Mitten scored with 42.5 seconds left before Pernell hit the front end of two free throws, making it a two-possession game and providing the final blow.
Graves led all scorers with 19 points and three blocks while Scott finished with eight points and a game-high 12 rebounds. Huff also had eight points, Mitten had five and Pernell finished with three points and four boards.
Lamerson led the Redstreaks with 14 points while Vulgamore finished with nine points, five rebounds and five assists. Jenkins also helped out, tallying six points and four rebounds.
Piketon is back in action on Saturday, hosting Whiteoak, while Southeastern welcomes in Paint Valley on Tuesday night — with work to be done.
“Our league is going to be really balanced,” Hice said. “You better be ready to play every night.”
Piketon: 7-6-8-18 — 39
Southeastern: 5-15-9-14 — 43
Piketon: 14-47 FG, 10-20 FT, 1-5 3pt., 21 rebounds (Risner 5), 14 turnovers, 9 assists (Vulgamore 5). Scoring: Lamerson 14, Vulgamore 9, Jenkins 6, Johnson 4, Cooper 4, McNelly 2.
Southeastern: 14-40 FG, 13-18 FT, 2-12 3pt., 26 rebounds (Scott 12), 15 turnovers, 7 assists (Huff 2). Scoring: Graves 19, Scott 8, Huff 8, Mitten 5, Pernell 3.