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PEORIA — First-year Putnam County girls basketball coach James Barnett knows Thursday’s game at Peoria Christian is the type of game a team draws on late in the season.
With first place in the Tri-County Conference on the line, the Lady Panthers dealt with a 32-minute delay and a change of venue, led at halftime and stayed within seven points of the Lady Chargers throughout before ultimately falling 55-45.
“It’s a good experience, especially this time of year,” Barnett said. “We have to play games like this. Every game’s not going to be 20-25 points. We have to play tough games. Every once in a while, you’ll be on the losing end of that and you’ll learn from it and use it to prepare. We have the Tri-County (Conference Tournament) coming up and the regional right around the corner.”
The Lady Panthers — who junior Daniela Pavlovich admitted were nervous entering the battle of TCC unbeatens — struggled with Peoria Christian’s press early as they turned the ball over on their first four possessions and fell behind 5-0.
About a minute after a Lady Panther timeout, Allison Voss scored Putnam County’s first basket off an inbounds play with 5:46 left in the first quarter.
A few possessions later, Carly Gonet tied the game with a three-point play, and the Lady Panthers eventually broke the press enough times that Peoria Christian called it off.
“When we got used to what was going on, we settled in and it got better,” Pavlovich said.
The Lady Panthers trailed 14-11 after the first quarter before making a 9-2 run to start the second — capped by a 3-pointer from Pavlovich on an assist from Carly Gonet — that gave them a 20-18 lead.
Peoria Christian responded with a 3-pointer from Jordan Myroth with 4:58 left in the second quarter.
Less than a minute later, the game was stopped when an official spotted water on the floor from a leak in the roof.
After a few minutes, it was determined the leak could not be fixed in a timely fashion so the game was moved to Peoria Christian Junior High a few blocks away.
Following the break, Putnam County missed a shot and the teams traded five consecutive turnovers before settling in to the new venue.
“It definitely killed the mood,” Pavlovich said about the delay. “The mood was good when it was 20-21 and after that 3-pointer, everything was good. Then we had to go on a bus, walk through puddles and play with wet socks. It wasn’t the greatest, but you have to deal with what you got.”
Despite the unique situation, the Lady Panthers managed to take a 29-28 halftime lead.
However, Putnam County didn’t respond as well after halftime as it did to the change in venue.
Behind the inside duo of Taylor Myroth and Taylor Howard, the Lady Chargers took the lead for good with a 7-0 run to open the third quarter.
The Lady Chargers consistently fed the ball to Taylor Myroth down low — which drew a double team from the Lady Panthers — and she consistently found Howard on the opposite side for easy baskets.
Howard finished with a game-high 27 points on 13-of-15 shooting, while Taylor Myroth had 10 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.
“Our plan all night was every time (Taylor Myroth) touched the ball down there, we were going to double her,” Barnett said. “We had a smaller defender on her, and that was our plan. We wanted to get her into the post then double her and rotate off of it. At times, our rotation was slow, and that’s where it hurt us.”
The Lady Panthers made a couple runs — pulling within one with 5:47 left in the third and within two with 6:58 left in the game — but Peoria Christian (17-3, 5-0 TCC) did not turn the ball over in the fourth quarter and outscored Putnam County 12-5 in the final eight minutes.
Pavlovich led Putnam County (17-3, 5-1 TCC) with 14 points to go along with three assists and two steals. Gonet had 13 points, four rebounds, four assists and a steal.
“I definitely want to play Peoria Christian again,” Pavlovich said. “That’s a game I would love to do again.”
The Lady Panthers may have another shot at Peoria Christian next week in the TCC Tournament title game at Marquette. The Lady Chargers are the No. 1 seed, while Putnam County is the No. 2 seed.
“I think some of the things we did tonight were successful and our game plan I think worked for the most part,” Barnett said. “We took away their two best scorers (the Myroth sisters). We gave up points to them at times and we gave up some points because of poor rotations more than anything. We just have to get better on those things.
“If we get the opportunity to play Christian again, now we have tape on them instead of just scouting reports so we can see things and tendencies, and hopefully we can be even more prepared next time.”
Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.
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