Panthers crown Royals, 55-44

By Joe Blystone - For the Expositor

HOLLAND – There was no triangle-and-two. No box-and-one. No any kind of junk defense from Elmwood against Delta’s guard tandem of Maddie Mattimore and Abby Freeman.

Probably because against any kind of man-to-man set up, the Royals couldn’t control them anyway, as the Panther duo buzzed through and around the slower Royals for 41 points as Delta knocked out Elmwood, 55-44, to advance to Thursday’s Division III sectional final at Springfield.

“It’s no secret we go as they go,” said Panther coach Ryan Ripke. “They handle the ball for us, they score for us, they play great defense for us, and they provide great leadership.”

Nine first quarter points from Mattimore boosted Delta to a 14-10 lead.

Elmwood stayed close basically because of a 12-6 rebounding edge in the quarter that led to six points on the offensive glass.

It was all Freeman in the second as the junior guard floated home a runner to start the quarter, hit a pair from the line, then on a pair of penetration moves to the key, she found Mattimore wide open for a pair of three-balls to give Delta a 24-19 halftime lead.

“Tonight Elmwood doubled us which made us a little more open, gave us a little more time to compose themselves to knock those shots down,” said Ripke.

Hayley Callahan’s bucket on a diagonal pass from Emily Clifton starting the third quarter bumped the Panther advantage to seven but Elmwood’s Zoe Shank hit a baseline jumper and Allison Arnold nailed a triple to get the Royals within a deuce at 26-24. Delta jumped back up eight when Mattimore hit a pair from the line, Freeman found Mary Miller inside for a layup, and Mattimore went left to right on a scoop and score to make it 32-24.

That lead exploded to 13 when Freeman scored on a drive, Mattimore hit a triple after an ankle breaking crossover move left her wide open at the top, and Clifton scored off her own miss on a jump stop fly by with 35 seconds left in the quarter.

Elmwood got it back to single digits, mostly because the Panthers got lax for those 35 seconds as Shank got an easy one inside and Jaela Kynard got a steal and score with five ticks left to get the Royals back to 41-32 entering the fourth.

Delta’s lead remained at nine with 5:55 left after Mattison Hilliard’s bucket, but Freeman blasted it back to 13 75 seconds later on a long range bomb from the left wing.

Shank’s four points keyed one last Royal run that closed the gap to eight with 3:49 to go but Freeman, Clifton and Mattimore went 6 for 6 at the stripe to close the Royals out.

Delta shot a smoking 71 percent in the second half and 56 percent for the game compared to the Royals 35 percent on the night.

Mattimore led all scorers with 26 points and Freeman knocked in 15.

Shank led Elmwood with 20.

The Panthers’ opponent in the sectional final will be Woodmore who took out Gibsonburg 50-38.

By Joe Blystone

For the Expositor

Reach Joe Blystone at [email protected]

Reach Joe Blystone at [email protected]