For two and a half quarters, Ryan Ripke’s Delta Panthers looked like skilled marksmen from 19 feet, nine inches, using a barrage of three-pointers to take a 23-point lead before holding off a frantic Pettisville rally to fend off the Blackbirds 57-51.
“They amped up the pressure and we have some young girls out on the floor that last year they weren’t called upon to do a majority of the ball handling,” said Ripke. “This year they have to and they had a lot of growing up to do tonight and I think for the most part they did.
“We aren’t quite sure what teams are going to do defensively against us. They came out in the zone and we just found the open girls.”
It took just 16 ticks after the opening tip before the Panthers’ Braelyn Wymer initiated the first salvo of long range bombs with one from the top of the key.
In fact, Delta hit six from outside the arc in the first quarter. A trio came from Braelyn Wymer, and one each from Brooklyn Wymer, Abby Freeman and Brooklyn Green to counter a pair by the Birds’ Mikayla Graber and another from Morgan Leppelmeier to take a 24-13 lead after eight minutes.
Braelyn Wymer’s fourth triple of the first half and Brooklyn Wymer’s steal and score gave the Panthers a 16-point lead with 5:14 left in the second quarter.
Leppelmeier’s putback, her criss cross move in the key and dump pass to Brandi Schnitkey for a layup got the Blackbirds back to within 33-20 at the break.
Delta came out smoking hot again to start the third as Jess Giguere got inside for a score, Braelyn Wymer hit her fifth three-ball and scored off a turnover, and Green followed with her third triple and a score off a steal to pump the Panther lead to 45-22 with 4:18 left.
That’s when Pettisville went back to man, stalling the Panthers’ spot up shot selection.
“We had to play zone because of foul trouble,” Pettisville coach Jason Waldvogel explained. “Man is what we want to really play and the girls responded and gritted it out.
“It put more pressure on them outside. They are very good stand up shooters, they are good shooters no matter what but great set shooters.”
“They went man and we weren’t quite getting the looks we were looking for,” Ripke stated. “We kind of went cold because we weren’t in the same rhythm and then in the fourth we went really cold and they got really hot.
“Give a lot of credit to Pettisville because they didn’t back down.”
The Birds also found some opportunities outside the arc and Leppelmeier and Graber nailed back-to-back three-balls to begin a 10-2 run that finished the third, chopping the Panther lead to 47-32.
Reagan Rouleau’s bucket to start the fourth bumped the Panther lead to 17. However Delta, who only committed two turnovers in three quarters, coughed the ball up a couple of times and the Birds made them pay by going on a 10-0 run.
Jessica McWatters and Elizabeth Beck banged home shots from way outside and Schnitkey stuck back her own miss to slice what was a comfortable Panther lead to 49-42 with 2:33 left.
“We have some pretty good shooters too,” Waldvogel said. “Some of them are younger and aren’t used to taking them at this level but they hit a few and as the year goes on they are going to get better and better.”
A technical foul on the Birds for having too many players on the floor proved costly as Freeman netted both free throws, but McWatters had a steal and score, and Leppelmeier got to the rim twice around a bucket from Giguere to get Pettisville within striking distance, 54-48.
However, Freeman was again money at the line with 22 seconds left to finally subdue the Birds.
After starting out 9 for 18 in the first quarter, Delta hit just 11 for 37 in the last three quarters, including just 3 of their last 16.
Pettisville was 20 of 52 for the game and outrebounded the Panthers 36-26.
Braelyn Wymer’s 17 points led a balanced Delta attack that also saw Green with 13 and Freeman with 11.
Leppelmeier had 19 to lead all scorers while Graber added 11 for the Blackbirds.
Reach Joe Blystone at email@example.com