JAMESTOWN – The Panama girls basketball team anticipated that it would face a sharp-shooting opponent as the Section VI, Class D final approached.
The Panthers also prepared to accomplish something of their own: Play the best defense they could, in order to return to championship form.
Panama didn’t waste any time doing that Saturday at Jamestown Community College.
The Panthers allowed Sherman only two successful shots from the floor in the first quarter – both in the final four minutes, en route to a 54-32 win.
“We knew that last time (in the regular season game), Carrie Sands scored 16 points on us, and we knew we had to keep them from scoring,” said Mandy Brink, a freshman guard who scored a game-high 19 points for Panama. “We all just had to leave it out there.
“We have been preparing for this for so long, and I’m so proud of them. We were ready for it.”
Natalie Angeletti, who scored 18 points for Panama, including eight in the third quarter, praised the play of Brink.
“She is just giving us the extra boost that we need, to play the best that we can,” Angeletti said.
Panama won its first Section VI Class D championship since 2017, when it completed a run of three Class D titles. Franklinville won the last two Class D titles, before it moved up to Class C this season. The Panthers will play in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class D Far West Regional Saturday against a Section V opponent.
Panama took advantage of Sherman’s poor shooting in the first quarter to take 16-5, lead, but after Kaitlyn Lindsey’s free throw 14 seconds into the second quarter for Sherman, neither team hit a shot for more than three minutes. Kylee Odell’s free throws with 4:12 left in the half helped Panama take a 23-15 lead at the break.
“We really focused on, every individual player has to work as hard as they can,” Angeletti said. “Everyone knew their roles and they had to work the hardest as they could in order to stop the other shooters, because they have some great shooters over there.
“All we had to do is play our roles. Everyone knew their roles, and if we achieved that, we knew we could come out with a ‘W.’"
Panama scored seven points in the first 90 seconds of the third quarter – on a pair of layups by Angeletti and a 3-pointer by Kylie Schnars – to take a 15-point lead. That lead widened to as many as 21 points, as the Panthers took a 41-25 lead into the fourth quarter.
Sherman made only one shot in the first four minutes of the fourth – a Carrie Sands 3-pointer, a little more than two minutes in – and finished with only three from the floor. Maggie Myers led the Wildcats with 12 points, while Sands added eight.
“Their experience definitely played a role today,” Sherman coach Emily Eckwahl said of Panama. “This is the first time we’ve been in the sectional finals for a while. We came out a little shell-shocked and once we found our footing, we were holding our own. Then, they came out on fire in the second half and we dug a hole we couldn’t dig ourselves out of.”