Panama Defends Class D Title | News, Sports, Jobs – Jamestown Post Journal

Mar 2, 2024
Panama head coach Nicole Peterson and the rest of the Panthers bench react at the end of Saturday’s Section VI Class D championship game against Sherman at Jamestown Community College’s Physical Education Complex. P-J photo by Jason Bower
Panama didn’t quit when it started its season 0-10.
The Panthers certainly weren’t going to give up when they were down six in the fourth quarter Saturday.
Junior Kaitlyn Horton tied the game in the final minute of regulation, then scored five points in overtime as No. 4 Panama outlasted No. 3 Sherman 53-49 in the Section VI Class D championship game at Jamestown Community College.
“It’s crazy,” Horton said postgame. ” … The beginning of the season was rough and a lot of us wanted to give up, but everyone told us just to keep fighting and to push through.”
The Panthers, who made it all the way to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association semifinals in Troy last year, were seemingly counted out this season after losing Post-Journal Player of the Year Mandy Brink to graduation.
Panama’s Kaitlyn Horton gets open under the basket as Sherman’s Tayden Persons attempts to defend her during Saturday’s Section VI Class D championship game at Jamestown Community College’s Physical Education Complex. P-J photo by Jason Bower
Their downfall seemed even more likely when they started 0-10 under first-year head coach Nicole Peterson.
“It’s so unreal. The players worked for everything they got today. Nothing was given to us at the beginning of the season. Nobody believed in us, nobody even looked our way,” Peterson said. “For these girls to persevere through all of that … to fight to get to this point, it’s even more exciting to know you earned it.”
Now they’re defending champions and will be playing in next Saturday’s 6 p.m. Far West Regional game against Section V’s Elba, which beat C.G. Finney 56-54 in the Rochester area’s title game at Finger Lakes Community College.
“I told Kylie Morgan at the beginning of the year we could make a state run if we wanted to. We have to find our groove and what roles everybody is going to play,” Peterson said. “After today I looked at her and she said, ‘You were right.’”
Panama trailed by as many as seven three times in the middle two quarters Saturday at the Physical Education Complex, but rallied to make it a four-point game entering the fourth quarter.
Panama’s Kiera Loberg runs the Panthers offense during Saturday’s Section VI Class D championship game against Sherman at Jamestown Community College’s Physical Education Complex. P-J photo by Jason Bower
Wildcats junior Kelsey Wagner beat the shot clock with a 3-pointer early in the period to make it 40-34, but with 5:32 remaining Panthers senior Kylie Morgan made 1 of 2 free throws, and after an offensive rebound, sophomore Kiera Loberg hit a 3-pointer to make it a two-point game.
“Late in the game, we had a couple of possessions where we actually got a few good looks at the hoop, they just weren’t falling as easily as they were in the first half,” Sherman head coach Emily Eckwahl said.
Horton tied the game twice down the stretch before it went to overtime tied at 44-all.
Sherman senior Lily Martin had a steal and a layup to open the extra session, but after junior Teagan Gratto fouled out with 3:34 remaining, Panama took advantage in the paint.
Horton scored to tie the game at 46-all before a second-chance opportunity resulted in Horton hitting a free throw for the lead with 1:32 left.
Sherman’s Emmersen Crawford and Panama’s Kiera Loberg dive for a loose ball during Saturday’s Section VI Class D championship game at Jamestown Community College’s Physical Education Complex. P-J photo by Jason Bower
“A little more cushion certainly would’ve been nice,” Eckwahl said. “It really hurt us playing five-and-a-half minutes without Teagan. That’s what it kind of boiled down to defensively.”
Morgan then scored with 53 seconds remaining to make it 49-46. Loberg hit 2 of 4 free throws during the Panthers’ next two trips and after Wagner hit her fifth 3-pointer of the game to make it a two-point game with 8 seconds left, Horton calmly sank a pair of free throws to put the game away.
“This one was one that definitely felt within reach for us. It stings a little bit,” Eckwahl said. “A lot of people seemed to be surprised that Panama was in this game, but we could see this coming a mile away. Those bigs are seasoned, they’re strong and they know how to battle. I knew that they’d be a formidable opponent and they were.”
“It was stressful for some of us, but last year in the first quarter against Sherman we were down 12,” Horton said. “Basketball is a game of hope. You always have to have hope, you can never give up.”
Now Panama, which won its sixth sectional crown — all in the past 10 years — will look to advance to the state final four for the fifth time.
Sherman’s Teagan Gratto challenges a shot by Panama’s Kylie Morgan during Saturday’s Section VI Class D championship game at Jamestown Community College’s Physical Education Complex. P-J photo by Jason Bower
“At the end of the season last year, I kind of doubted where we would be this year,” Horton said. “To come this far … this means more than anything.”
“It’s huge, especially for the seniors who thought their season was going to be over,” Peterson added. “Now, we’re going to regionals. … They’re so excited.”
NOTES: Horton finished with a game-high 22 points to go along with 11 rebounds; Loberg had 11 points and three steals; and Morgan had 10 points and 11 rebounds for Panama, which shot 17 of 39 from the field, including 3 of 12 from 3-point range, and turned the ball over 20 times. … Wagner had 19 points and four steals; senior Tayden Persons had 10 rebounds and three steals; and Gratto had eight rebounds and three assists for Sherman, which shot 19 of 61 from the field, including 7 of 20 from 3-point range, and turned the ball over 15 times.
PANAMA (53)
Cavness 0 0 0, CLyon 2 0 5, Morgan 4 2 10, Horton 6 10 22, Loberg 4 2 11, Markham 1 1 4, JLyon 0 1 1. Totals 17 16 53.
Sherman’s Kelsey Wagner attempts to get by a Panama defender during Saturday’s Section VI Class D championship game at Jamestown Community College’s Physical Education Complex. P-J photo by Jason Bower
SHERMAN (49)
Gable 2 0 5, Emory 0 0 0, Kioko 0 0 0, Persons 2 1 5, Crawford 2 3 8, Wagner 7 0 19, Gratto 3 0 6, Martin 3 0 6. Totals 19 4 49.
3-point goals–CLyon, Loberg, Markham, GAble, Crawford, Wagner 5.
Panama 6 14 13 11 9 — 53
Sherman 10 12 15 7 5 — 49
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