Panthers late rally falls just short

Published 10:25 pm Friday, January 12, 2024

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Friday’s contest between LaGrange College and Berea truly came down to the wire as the Panthers dropped a 61-60 contest on their home floor. After falling behind early and trailing the majority of the game, the Panthers mounted a big comeback that fell just one point shy of extending the game.

Breakout junior Zyhia Johnson nailed a 3-pointer with 46 seconds left in the game that sent the crowd into a frenzy as the Panthers cut the Berea lead to just one point. The Bears exhausted almost the entire shot clock before hitting a two-pointer to go up by three points. 

The Panthers had their chance to tie the game late, but a Johnson 3-pointer came off the rim and Britney Chavez’s tip-in as time expired was not enough to send the game into overtime.

Offense was a grind for both teams to start the contest, but even more so for LaGrange College.

The Panthers trailed 17-10 after one and 32-23 at halftime. LaGrange College shot just 24% in the first half, highlighting the struggles on the offensive end of the court.

The offense gelled in the second half which let the Panthers get back into the game. It started with shotmaking as LaGrange College shot 45% in the second half.

When the Panthers needed an offensive spark to start the second half, Amanda Mclendon provided, scoring nine of her team-high 15 points in the third quarter. She was a warrior, playing all 10 minutes of the third quarter and 19 of the 20 minutes in the second half with just a short breather early in the fourth.

At one point the Panthers trailed by 12 points (41-29) midway through the third quarter, but the team never packed it in and fought until the final buzzer.

Mclendon passed the baton to Johnson in the fourth quarter, who was having an uncharacteristically quiet night before then. She is leading the team in scoring with 18.5 points per game — almost eight points per game higher than the next highest scorer on the team — and is the reigning conference player of the week, but had just four points entering the fourth quarter. She scored seven in the quarter and helped bring the Panthers within striking distance late.

Free throws were a bit of an issue for the Panthers as they connected on just 17 of 28 attempts, leaving some easy points at the line.

LaGrange College (9-4) had won three in a row and had not dropped a game since the turn of the new year coming into Friday. It was the first conference loss of the season for the Panthers who fell to 3-1 in the Collegiate Conference of the South. LaGrange College will return to action on Saturday when the Panthers host Maryville for another important conference matchup.