Photos courtesy Jessie Otten
Last summer Mel Saad Sr. and his wife Marlene purchased a gigantic, approximately 12′ x 25′, U.S. flag for the main gym at Erie High School. The flag is retractable and is lowered for the playing of the National Anthem prior to school activities.
It is an inspiring sight to see the flag lowered during the anthem but on Friday night as the flag began to lower it got stuck with about one third of it showing. A few attempts were made to get it working but to no avail as it was then retracted at the end of the anthem.
As it turns out, the malfunction would be an omen for the Panther offense as they were held to just 7 points in the first half and suffered a 53-39 loss to Kewanee on Senior Night.
The five senior Panthers, Keegan Behrens, Bryce Rosenow, Dawson Haggard, Hunter Woodworth, and Brody Naftzger started for EP.
Kewanee raced out to 10-0 lead the same way the game in Kewanee began on Tuesday, but eventually EP would get back into that game and get the win, not so on Friday.
A suffocating 1-3-1 zone forced the Panthers into numerous turnovers and combined with cold shooting led to a 21-4 first quarter deficit.
Offensively things did not improve for the Panthers in the second quarter as they had several good looks but were held to one bucket and a free throw to see a 33-7 hill to climb going into the halftime locker room. “We didn’t make shots and when that happened our energy level went way down”, said head coach Ryan Winckler. “We can’t control if the shots drop or not but we can control what happens on the defensive end.”
EP responded to Winckler’s halftime talk and turned up its defensive pressure in the third quarter and put together a short offensive burst. Connor Sibley, who led the Panther scoring with 16, cashed in three buckets in the period and his head long dive for a loose ball gave the Panthers a sorely needed charge. Meanwhile, the Boilers did not find the bottom of the net until the three minute mark of the quarter. The Panthers were able to cut the margin to twenty, but the visitors rallied to hold a 41-19 advantage after three.
“We outscored them by 12 in the second half. We played hard but not fundamental in the first half, in the second half we played better and didn’t turn the ball over as much. We played as individuals in the first half but as a team in the second,” added Winckler.
Kewanee was able to maintain its lead through the fourth quarter until they cleared their bench in the final three minutes.
Tayvian Taylor led the Boilers with 15 and Niko Powe added 13.
When asked what was the difference between Tuesday’s win and Friday’s loss Winckler said, “The team that played with the most intensity each night came out with the victory.”.
The F/S Panthers moved to 2-1 with a decisive win over Kewanee 45-32. The outcome was never in doubt as EP jumped out to 15-6 first quarter lead. Caleb Naftzger led the home team with 19 and Jack Minssen chipped in 6.
The Panthers travel to Peru on Saturday afternoon to face St. Bede.