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Putnam County junior Evan Kreiser (No. 33) shoots as Hall’s Austin Schmitt defends Friday during the Panthers’ 56-54 victory in a Tri-County Conference game in Spring Valley. Kreiser scored a team and career-high 16 points. NewsTribune photo/Genna Ord
Putnam County coach Josh Nauman was surprised how his team came out Friday at Hall considering what was on the line.
“We just came out flat tonight,” Nauman said. “We didn’t play with much energy. … I don’t know what it was. It just seemed like we had no energy until the end. We’re playing for the conference championship, basically, so you’d think we’d have some energy and emotion.”
The Panthers found their energy in the fourth quarter.
Putnam County scored on seven of its first nine possessions in the fourth quarter and held on at the end to beat the Red Devils 56-54 to clinch at least a share of the Tri-County Conference regular season championship.
The Panthers are now 19-7 overall and 7-1 in the conference with one game remaining Friday at DePue. Henry is in second place at 6-2.
It is the third consecutive season Putnam County has won at least a share of the title.
“It’s great to win three in a row,” Nauman said. “We did a great job tonight, and hopefully we can win Friday and clinch it by ourselves instead of tying.”
The Panthers trailed Hall 42-40 entering the final eight minutes and fell behind 44-40 early in the fourth before junior Evan Kreiser started PC’s run by splitting a pair of free throws.
On PC’s next possession, senior Cody Veronda then made a free throw before missing the second, but classmate Xavier Warren grabbed the rebound and passed to Harold Fay for a basket that tied the game at 44-44.
Warren then stole the ball and dished to Sam Garland to give the Panthers the lead for good at 46-44 with 6:12 left.
Garland later had a bucket off an assist from Fay, then Garland stole the ball and scored a fast-break layup with 5:09 left for a 52-47 lead.
Kreiser capped the 14-3 run with a jumper with 3:39 remaining.
“I think the fact that it was for the conference championship (sparked us),” said Kreiser, who finished with a team-high and career-high 16 points. “We just hustled our butts off (in the fourth quarter).”
A bucket by Zach Urbanski and a 3-pointer by Rosy Fuentes pulled Hall within two at 54-52 with 2:24 left, but the Red Devils — who lost 61-60 to PC in the TCC Tournament title game on Jan. 25 — could not capitalize down the stretch as the Panthers hit just 2-of-10 free throws in the final 1:32.
“I told (my players) they played the best team in the conference to a one possession game not once, but twice,” Filippini said. “It sucks to lose like that. In games like that, everybody’s going to look at the last play, but we had way too many chances that we should have taken care of, (but we had) turnovers, not boxing out, things like that.”
After Garland missed a pair of free throws with 11.1 seconds left, Hall dribbled across midcourt and called timeout with six seconds left to set up its final play.
The Red Devils planned to get the ball to Ian Trevier or Brett Fanning for a 3-pointer, but senior Danny Nolasco ended up taking a long 3-pointer that missed at the buzzer.
“The last play we were going to try to have (Fanning) set a screen and we were either going to try to get Ian for a 3 or Brett for a 3, but we couldn’t get the ball in and then when we got it in, we just kind of panicked,” Filippini said.
Fanning scored a game-high 28 points for Hall (8-16, 4-4 TCC). He had 26 points through the first three quarters but managed just a pair of free throws in the fourth. The senior guard, who also grabbed 10 rebounds, only attempted one shot in the final eight minutes.
“He played a tremendous game,” Nauman said. “He’s a great player. I didn’t think we did that bad of a job on him. He got a lot in transition. He does such a good job getting to the free throw line. He’s tough to stop. Luckily, we did a good job at the end there keeping the ball out of his hands and not letting him beat us.”
Along with Kreiser’s 16, PC got 10 points each from Fay and Garland along with nine from Warren.
Note: Hall honored seniors from boys basketball, bowling, cheerleading and Devilettes before the game. Seniors Alex Olivares and Landon Piccatto had the opportunity to start for the Red Devils, but according to Filippini, declined in order to give Hall the best chance to win.
Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.
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