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GRANVILLE — If entertainment was in pursuit for Tuesday night, R.M. Germano Gymnasium in Granville was the place to be as the building rumbled with Senior Night festivities for the Putnam County boys basketball team.
The large crowd decked out in yellow and black Panther gear chanted “Ohhhh Ohhh Ohh Ohhh” to Kernkraft 400’s “Zombie Nation”, the PC choir sang the “National Anthem” instead of play being pushed on a CD player and the halftime show was a nicely done nostalgic dance routine bringing people back to the dance moves of Michael Jackson and the Village People and then returning the crowd to 2013 with Beyonce and T-Pain.
And for the main event, the Panthers hit clutch shots in pressure situations as PC defeated Somonauk 76-68 for the Panthers’ 10th straight win and 20th win of the season.
“I just wanted to come out on fire,” said PC senior guard Cody Veronda, who scored a game-high 26 points. “We had a great crowd out there and it was such a good night for us seniors for our last game here. We wanted to get the 20th win, and we did.”
Down 56-52 with a little over seven minutes left in the game, the Panther offense got to work.
Junior forward Evan Kreiser found senior center Dusty Miller under the hoop for an easy lay-up.
Then Veronda — who had already hit three 3-pointers — went on a shooting clinic. He hit a 3-point shot to give PC a 57-56 lead, and then answered a basket by Bobcat junior Marcus Alstadt with a 3-pointer to give PC at 64-61 cushion.
“It was great to see Cody come out on Senior Night and have a huge game like that. I know it means a lot to him,” PC coach Josh Nauman said.
Alstadt hit two free throws and Somonauk’s leading scorer, junior Reece Bode, knocked down his third 3 to secure his 23 points on the game and allow the Bobcats to retake the lead at 66-64.
On the next PC possession, Veronda ran to the corner and patiently waited for junior guard Harold Fay to penetrate the lane with his dribble and find the open, red-hot shooter. Veronda buried yet another 3 to void the Bobcats’ clutch shots and put the Panthers up 67-66 with 1:30 to go.
“Cody was going off a little bit, matching their 3s,” Fay said. “It seemed like every time they hit one, he hit one. It was the senior’s night, not my night, so let them play and I’ll get mine when I can.”
From then on, the Panthers took advantage of containing a lead late in a close game as they knocked down 7-of-10 free throws to seal the win.
“Dusty Miller came out and I think he had his season high with eight points,” Nauman said. “Xavier (Warren) played his typical game — he didn’t score quite as much as usual— but he was all over the place defensively and getting other guys involved on offense.”
Obtaining the 20th victory wasn’t only a struggle down the stretch but the entire game as the contest saw seven lead changes and five ties with the largest lead being the eight-point final score.
Nauman said if it wasn’t for big-time buckets, the game could have went the other way.
“We didn’t play very well on the defensive end; it might be the most points we’ve given up all year,” Nauman said. “We just gave them too many easy looks. Luckily, we were able to outscore them.”
Fay, a normal starter who didn’t start on Senior Night, scored 19 points off the bench, while Kreiser added nine points. Warren had seven points, five rebounds — four offensive rebounds — four assists and four steals.
With only a game against DePue left on the schedule, the Panthers known they need to tighten up Tuesday’s loose defense before next week’s regionals.
“We started off slow,” Veronda said. “At halftime we gave up 34 points, which, in the Streator game we gave up 33 all together. Our defense was very sluggish, but we picked it up in the second half, got the win and we just need to practice a lot harder for regionals coming up.”
Brandon LaChance can be reached at 220-6939, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_LaChance.
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