Pinckneyville tops Hornets
Panthers clinch SIRR Mississippi title, 59-56 in overtime
Nashville's poor FT shooting proves costly in defeat
NASHVILLE – Sometimes the big fish wiggles off of the hook.

On Saturday night at the Assembly Hall in Nashville, the host Hornets had Pinckneyville right where they wanted them, and all they had to do was reel them in.

Coach Brad Weathers' club had the Panthers in foul trouble for most of the game and were in position to hand Pinckneyville their first Southern Illinois River-to-River Mississippi Division loss of the season.

They just needed to take advantage of their opportunities at the foul line to walk away with the victory.

As it turned out, the foul line wasn't a happy place for Nashville in this game.

The Hornets turned in a sub-par performance from the stripe, hitting just 14-of-29 attempts, including six-crucial misses in the fourth quarter when the could have put the game away.

Instead they needed a desperation 3-pointer to send the game into overtime.

The Hornets eventually saw the big fish swim away with a 59-56 victory in front of a big crowd at home.

The Panthers got a big scoring night by junior guard Grant Jausel, who netted 21-points for Coach Bob Waggoner's 25-2 squad who put a stamp on the conference title.

Jausel hit 7-of-7 from the foul line while teammate J.C. Moll, a 5-foot-11 junior guard, added 12-points for the Panthers.

Moll was part of the free throw shooting difference as he canned four straight foul shots, two in the fourth quarter and two in overtime, to help seal the win.

With a two-game lead with only one game to play, the Panthers are the conference champs.

Freshman Devin Kitchen, a 6-foot freshman reserve, came off the bench to add eight-points to help “sink” the Hornets.

In fact all eight Pinckneyville players who served court time on Saturday night contributed points in the win.

“It's never easy coming in here (Nashville) and I told the guys we haven't won here since 2012. It is always a competitive game. We didn't play our best basketball tonight and I give Nashville credit for that,” said Coach Waggoner. “I thought we battled thought a lot tonight and our subs came in and gave us a big lift. Kitchen hit a couple of 3's and Chandler hit a big three for us in the third quarter.”

But it was Jausel who produced the victory, hitting three key shots in the fourth and another field goal in the extra session.

While Nashville was laying bricks at the foul line, Pinckneyville netted 20-of-25 from the charity stripe which led to their ninth conference victory of 2016-17.

Coach Weathers' club turned to 6-foot-6 senior forward Brogan Kemp who muscled his way inside for 21-points and seven-rebounds but no one else emerged for Nashville to eclipse the double-figure mark in scoring.

Ryan Brink and Hayden Heggemeier, both seniors, chipped in nine-points each.

“We were 14-of-29 from the foul line and it wasn't any one person. We had opportunities to win the ballgame but give them (Pinckneyville) credit. They converted their free throws,” said Coach Weathers. “I'm proud of the effort and we are getting better but you have to take advantage of that (foul shots).”

Brink hit the 3-pointer from the left wing in the final seconds that sent the teams to overtime tied at 52-all.

But the game shouldn't have been that close as the Hornets missed 6-of-7 foul shots in the final 4:49 of regulation, which allowed the Panthers to take a three-point lead in the closing moments.

After Moll nailed two-consecutive free throws with :17.4 left, the Hornets needed a 3-pointer to tie the contest.

They eventually got the ball to Brink on the left wing and with two Panther defenders closing in on him, he let go of a shot that found the bottom of the net with :04 remaining sending the game to OT.

The Hornets had one lead in the overtime when Heggemeier took a pass from Kemp for a lay in for a 55-54 advantage with 2:18 left.

However Jausel hit on a drive down the middle of the lane as those two baskets were the only field goals in the overtime.

The Panthers also had their chances to close out the game but three of their missed free throws, all by junior forward Kyle Luke as he was 3-of-6 from the line in the OT, came in the final minute.

He could have iced the game with :14.6 left, but he made just the second of two charities.

Nashville got an open look from sophomore Bryson Bultman for a tying 3-pointer moments later, but that miss was rebounded by Pinckneyville freshman Dawson Yates.

As Yates headed up court to run out the clock, he lost the ball and Nashville got off one more attempt, this time a 3-pointer from the top of the circle by freshman Carson Parker.

His shot from 20-feet hit the left side of the rim and fell off as the horn sounded for the Panthers hard earned win.

This game resembled many of the others in this long-time series between the two programs, as both teams played physical basketball on both ends of the floor.

This led to a lot of fouls (38) and foul shots (54) combined.

Jausel led the Panthers in the first half, hitting for 11-points with while Kemp kept pace with eight-points on four shots near the basket.

With the game tied at 17 late in the half, the Panthers got two huge 3-pointers from Kitchen, as the Hornets lost track of the 6-foot freshman.

Both times Kitchen found himself open with the ball from the right side and he drilled home both attempts as the Panthers led 25-21 at intermission.

“Other than letting (Kitchen) get loose a couple of times there in the second quarter, I thought we guarded them really well,” said Coach Weathers. “I thought Heggemeier guarded Jausel awfully well. He earned the points and he hit all of his free throws.”

Kemp added eight more points in the third quarter and a three-point play by Heggemeier helped give the Hornets the edge at the end of the three, 40-37.

A bucket by Kemp to begin the fourth forced Coach Waggoner to burn a timeout down by five.

Trailing by five later in the fourth after another Kemp score, the Panthers took back control with a Luke three-point play another score from Jausel.

Kitchen made his presence known again, this time with a steal and length of the floor left handed lay in for a 48-46 Panthers' lead.

Jausel and Bultman traded baskets with just over a minute left in regulation, setting up the final finish.

Both teams, despite the defenses dominating at times, shot the ball well from the floor.

Nashville ended up 20-of-34 overall (58.8 percent) and 2-of-5 from the 3-point line.

The Panthers finished 17-of-35 (48.5 percent) and 5-of-10 from long range.

Nashville, behind Kemp's seven-rebounds, led the board work 20-14.

The defenses forced 25-turnovers (Nashville 13, Pinckneyville 12) between the two teams.

The Panthers can finish 10-0 in the league with a win over Carterville next Friday at home before ending their season with a non-conference road game at West Frankfort on Saturday night.

The Hornets saw their mark slip to 16-11, 6-3 in the Mississippi Division as they will close out their regular season with a game at Du Quoin next Friday night.

“I really thought it would be hard for us tonight because their guards are so big and rebound the ball well but we did a good job of fighting through it,” said Coach Waggoner. “The difference tonight was the free throw line. I'm really proud of our team, this gives us the conference outright and we are building for the postseason. We are hoping to have an opportunity to be back here (sectional) in a couple of weeks.”

Pinckneyville (59) – Moll 1 2 4-4 12, Chandler 0 1 0-0 3, Yates 1 0 0-0 2, Luke 1 0 4-7 6, Rulevish 0 0 3-5 3, Jausel 7 0 7-7 21, Kitchen 1 2 0-0 8, Howard 1 0 2-2 4.
2FG-12, 3FG-5, FT-20-25, PF-20.

Nashville (56) – Schnitker 0 0 4-6 4, Heggemeier 3 0 3-6 9, Bultman 3 0 0-0 6, Carson Parker 0 0 0-0 0, Brink 0 2 3-4 9, Cameron Parker 0 0 0-0 0, Briles 3 0 1-5 7, Kemp 9 0 3-8 21.
2FG-18, 3FG-2, FT-14-29, PF-18.

Fouled Out
– Rulevish - Pinckneyville; Kemp - Nashville.
Technical Fouls
– None.