For 16 minutes Friday night the young EP Panthers looked like an experienced, hot shooting high school varsity basketball team. Unfortunately, the second half was a stark contrast and the visiting Orion Chargers left Prophetstown with a 59-40 victory under their belt.
Both teams started in aggressive man-to-man defenses and points were hard to come by at the beginning. A short jumper by Keegan Winckler at the 2:37 mark of the first period made it 5-4 Orion. The Panthers then gathered steam as freshman, Evan Steimle connected for a 3-point bomb and Jeremiah Kochevar took the second of three charges from an Orion player. Steimle’s 2 free throws and a Conner Keegan 3 gave the Panthers a 16-9 advantage at the end of the quarter. Another Steimle 3 after an offensive rebound excited the home crowd and Keegan’s 4-point play gave the Panthers their biggest lead of the night at 23-11 at the 5:05 mark. Orion then switched to a 1-2-2 zone press and 1/2 court defense and it caused problems for the rest of the contest to the young Panthers.
EP was playing 3 sophomores and a freshman through most of the contest and the experienced Orion squad was able to recover. Two long 3-pointers gave them life and they were able to cut the deficit to 28-27 EP at the half.
The third period saw the Panthers commit numerous turnovers against the trapping Orion pressure and some cold shooting allowed the visitors to take a commanding lead. Two free throws by Joe Papineau was all the Panthers were able to score in the 8 minute period while Orion put in 24 to lead 51-30 after three.
A couple of 3-pointers from EP in the 4th quarter helped the Panthers to outscore Orion 10-9 in the final period but it wasn’t enough to threaten.
Head Coach Ryan Winckler was positive in his post-game comments focusing on all the good things his squad did during the first half, but commented “We let it get away from us during the third quarter as our turnovers and missed shots led to some easy Charger buckets. We are still making solid progress and will get back at it Monday in practice”.
Keegan had 17 points and Steimle 8 to lead the Panthers in scoring.
EP travels to Lena- Winslow Tuesday night for a contest before a 2 week break leading up to the Warkins Classic starting December 27.