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Putnam County senior Xavier Warren (right) hugs teammate Sam Garland in the final seconds of the Panthers’ 65-54 loss Thursday to Ridgeview in the Class 1A Putnam County Sectional semifinals. NewsTribune photo/Amanda Whitlock
GRANVILLE — The Putnam County boys basketball team’s run finally came to an end.
After a 14-game winning streak that included the Tri-County Conference Tournament and Class 1A Henry Regional championships, the Panthers bowed out of the 2012-13 prep hoops campaign with a 65-54 loss Thursday to Ridgeview in the Class 1A Putnam County Sectional semifinals.
A buzzer-beating desperation 3-pointer by Ridgeview senior forward Brock Heimer — off a hot-potato pass initiated with seven-tenths of a second left — in the third quarter proved to be the dagger for PC as it gave the Mustangs a 40-32 advantage and considerable momentum heading into the fourth quarter.
Once in the final frame, the Panthers could claw no closer than seven points as the Mustangs galloped off into tonight’s finale against Associated Press top-ranked Illini Central spurred along by 16-of-18 shooting from the foul stripe in the fourth quarter.
“They were just going to spread it out, hold the ball and make us come and get them. You don’t play catch-up like that. They were too good of ball handlers and made shots and made free throws when they needed to,” Putnam County coach Josh Nauman said.
“We made a couple runs there (in the third quarter) and cut (Ridgeview’s double-digit lead) down to two at one point (at 31-29 with a little more than two minute left). Then we had a couple bad shots. We’d get on a little run and then we’d try to force stuff instead of being patient,” added Naumann, who said the PC staff was split on whether or not Heimer’s third-quarter buzzer beater should have counted.
While Heimer’s third-quarter bomb was in dispute, his poise at the foul line down the stretch was indisputable as he drilled 6-of-6 fourth quarter free throws. He finished with a team-high 15 points for the Mustangs (24-7), including a perfect 8-for-8 from the charity stripe, and snagged a game-best 10 rebounds.
“We took care of the ball a lot better in the fourth quarter and got to the free throw line. I thought we did a good job when they started pressuring us. We got some breakaway layups and the kids executed well. It kept us that breathing room going into the last couple minutes,” Ridgeview coach Rodney Kellar said.
Matt Barnes joined Heimer in double-digit scoring with 14 points for the Mustangs and added seven rebounds. Senior guard Cory Winterland also added 14 points, while classmate Trevor McIntosh chipped in 12 points and seven rebounds.
Putnam County junior Harold Fay led all scorers with 21 points in a determined effort that saw him sink several circus shots off the dribble for chances at three-point plays.
Senior Cody Veronda added 17 points for the Panthers (24-8), who were tied 10-10 after the first quarter and trailed 23-18 at intermission. Senior guard Xavier Warren chipped in seven points and junior center Sam Garland grabbed a team-best five rebounds.
The defeat was the final prep contest for PC seniors Antonio Diaz-DeLeon, Dusty Miller, Ryan Salz, Veronda, Warren and Tyler Williams.
Nauman said his squad should be proud of their strong season.
“It was a great season — a lot of fun. When they look back they’ll be proud and remember winning 14 straight and winning championships at the Tri-County Conference Tournament and regionals,” Nauman said. “They’ll have a banner on the ceiling, and when they come back for the Tri-County Conference Tournament, they’ll see 2013 up there.”
Chris Yucus can be reached at 220-6995 or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsChris.
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