Don Kuhnen, AP Sports
The EP Panther boys varsity opened their season Monday night at the Geneseo Thanksgiving Tournament taking on the host school. The Panthers fell behind early and couldn’t recover as their lineup, featuring three sophomores, was blitzed by a hot shooting Maple Leaf squad in the first quarter.
After an exchange of 3-point shots by both teams including Jeremiah Kochevar’s, Geneseo caught fire and nailed five 3’s in the first quarter. The Leafs were up 20-5 before a 3-pointer from Ethan Lavine slowed the run with 3:30 still remaining in the quarter. The first 8 minutes ended with Geneseo up 24-12.
The lead grew to 34-16 before a second timeout from EP settled things down a little. Kochevar continued to provide some Panther offense and his 10 first half points helped make it 42-21 at halftime.
The second half was a completely different ball game as EP picked up their man to man defensive intensity and did a much better job of denying the ball getting to the Leaf’s better shooters. Sophomore Connor Keegan got hot for the Panthers and his old fashion 3 point play closed the gap to 46-32 with 3:02 left in the third forcing a Geneseo timeout. Keegan’s 12 third quarter points helped close the gap to 50-37 entering the final 8 minutes.
The Panthers went cold again in the fourth quarter but their defensive pressure kept it respectable. Keegan’s steal and layup made it 52-39 with 5:45 left but the Panthers couldn’t get any closer. It was 58-41 with 2:30 left when both coaches emptied their benches and no-one scored again.
Coach Ryan Winckler was very happy with the turnaround after the slow start. “Our youngsters weren’t quite ready for the initial Geneseo onslaught but responded well in the second half of the contest. We are a very young team and hope to grow from this.” The Panthers were led by Keegan with 19 and Kochevar with 10.
EP returns to Geneseo Wednesday night at 5 to play Rock Falls. They will play twice on Friday with a 10:30 AM contest against Kewanee and they close the tourney facing Rockridge at 1:30 PM.