Girls drop a thriller to the Pekin Panthers

Calli Shaw, Mia Graber, Payton Hart, Alyssa Hershberger, Suzanna Yoder
Calli Shaw, Mia Graber, Payton Hart, Alyssa Hershberger, Suzanna Yoder

The girls traveled to Pekin on Tuesday night and dropped a thriller to the Pekin Panthers 43-47. IMS struggled to connect on quality looks early on and was held scoreless through the first five minutes of play until a Suzanna Yoder bucket sparked new life.  Strong interior play from the Panthers led to quick buckets, but IMS continued to fight and closed out the period down 8-15.  “We struggled early on to contain Maci Gambell,” IMS head coach Kari Heusinkveld said.  “She’s tough to defend once she catches the ball and we didn’t do a good enough job keeping it out of her hands.”

IMS made some adjustments after the first period on both ends of the floor that served them well in the second period.  With their second leading scorer Rachel Miller out with an injury, the small squad needed someone to step up and fill that void on the offensive end, and that’s exactly what junior forward Alyssa Hershberger did.   “Suzanna got us off to a good start, but we needed scoring from someone else as well,” Heusinkveld said.  “Hersh really came to life in that second period.”  IMS went on to outscore Pekin in the second and closed out the half down 20-27.

“We had to make some adjustments at the half defensively,” Heusinkveld said.  “The Panthers interior play was just brutal early on.  We thought if we switched up our defensive approach and forced shots from the outside, that was our best chance at finding success.”

IMS opened the second half with a great defensive effort, but foul trouble sent Pekin to the line where they continued to add to their lead.  The Panthers went on an 8-2 run to start the third and held IMS scoreless until the two-minute-mark when Yoder knocked down a pair of free throws.  Hershberger then added to the mix knocking down a couple shots and Yoder added another pair of free throws.  Heading into the fourth IMS was down just 10 and needed to put together a strong run.

Suzanna Yoder, Alyssa Hershberger, Mia Graber
Suzanna Yoder, Alyssa Hershberger, Mia Graber

Both teams struggled to get into a rhythm until IMS went on a 10-4 run, forcing the Panthers to call a couple timeouts.  IMS kept the game within reach and put the pressure on Pekin.  With just over a minute to go IMS got a much-needed stop and called its final timeout of the game, down 39-41.  Coming out of the timeout IMS looked to get Yoder for a quick attack, but a turnover led to a bucket for the Panthers.  The Panthers followed up with another stop and got to the line, hitting 1-2 free throws.

Down 39-44 with :30 left in regulation, a Yoder drive collapsed the defense and senior Calli Shaw found Hershberger underneath for a big basket.  IMS pressured Pekin full court trying to force a turnover, but the Panthers broke through and converted on a bucket with a foul.  This foul left IMS to finish the game with just four players, down 41-46.  Following a Panther made free throw, Yoder pushed the ball and found an open Shaw who knocked down the final bucket of the game.

“What an effort from our squad tonight,” Heusinkveld said.  “To be missing one of your top scorers and then come out and fight like we did, it just speaks volumes to what this group is all about.  These girls work hard in practice, stay positive and stick together.  It was great to see this bust-out performance from Hersh, we’ve been waiting for it and she came up huge for us down the stretch.”

IMS was led by Yoder with 24 points, six rebounds and four assists.  Hershberger set a new career high 17 points to go along with four rebounds and no turnovers.  Shaw rounded out the scoring with a bucket.  Avery Blauvelt added five rebounds.

IMS hosts Mediapolis on alumni night this Friday.  Tipoff is set for 6 pm.