Most animal experts would agree that if a tiger fought with a panther, the tiger, because of its strength and size, would win every time.
Whether it be in the jungle or on the hardwood, the same result apparently holds true as the Tigers of Northwestern defeated Panther Valley last night, 56-49, to run their all-time record to 11-0 over the Panthers.
Size and strength prevailed. The Tigers raced to a nine-point first-quarter lead on the torrid shooting strength of Tyler Richardson. He sank his first three three-point shots and totaled 11 points for the first eight minutes.
Richardson continued his scoring pace with two more treys to end the first half with 17 of his 23 total points for the game.
The senior guard is averaging eight points per game this season.
"Tonight was the first night I took a bandage off my bad ankle," said Richardson. "So I was feeling pretty good. Then I just got in a zone."
Panther Valley, despite Richardson's blistering first half and the high-point play of 6-foot-6 Jared Binder (12 total points), kept the score close by making nine three pointers. The Panthers' Jake Szczecina's four-point play with 4:51 left in the third quarter brought his team to a one-point deficit as they threatened to take the lead for the first time in the game.
"It's frustrating," said Panther Valley coach Pat Crampsie. "Several times we cut into their lead, but we had too many empty trips where we got no shots off at all. We lack consistency and there are no excuses, especially when we play at home. We need to focus better and work harder to get clean shots."
After trailing by six at the break, the Panthers clawed their way back. Luke Stano made two three pointers from the corner and Steve Romanchik's drove down the lane with 1:48 to go in the third quarter to cut the Tiger lead again, this time to two points.
Crampsie employed a tight man to man defense on Richardson, which shut him out for the entire eight minutes.
"Again what's frustrating is that we stopped their hot shooter, but we could not capitalize on offense," said Crampsie. "Our defense was solid, but we need to score and we have to be patient and get clean looks at the basket."
Tiger coach Dan Eddinger was pleased with his team's effort.
"Tyler was great and our big man, Binder, was solid despite not feeling well," he said. "I also thought Cameron Richardson did a good job keeping their big scorer, Szczecina, in check most of the night."
Down by only three at the start of the fourth quarter, Panther Valley did not score a field goal until Brett Kirschner popped a long three at the 3:38 mark. Meanwhile, Northwestern only scored three points, all by Tyler Richardson, in the quarter's first two and a half minutes. But turnovers and poor shooting plagued the Panthers comeback attempts until the Tigers sealed the win with several free throws.
The Panthers were led by Szczecina's 16 points while Steve Romanchik netted 11.
Improvement for his Tigers, according to coach Eddinger, is obvious.
"I am pleased that we have more players going to the hole on offense," said Eddinger. "When I took over the program 17 months ago, my staff and I had our kids practice driving inside to be more aggressive because even if they don't score chances are that they will go to the foul line. That's what happened in the final few minutes tonight. It's about good ball handling too. Give Panther Valley credit for playing us tough on defense, but we played smart when the ball was in our hands."
Crampsie saw a game slip away. He felt his Panthers had the chance to pull victory away from defeat.
"Too many mental breakdowns," he said. "We just have to get better ball possessions, especially when the game is on the line."
And until the Panthers can defeat the Tigers, the rule of the jungle still applies to the basketball court whenever these two teams play each other.
T. Richardson 7-4-4-23, Williamson 1-3-5-5, Perry 1-0-0-2, Binder 6-0-1-12, C.Richardson 2-3-4-7, Wagner 0-6-8-6, Breidinger 0-1-2-1. TOTALS: 17-17-24-56.
Szczecina 3-8-9-16, Kusko 1-0-0-3, Romanchik 2-6-10-11, Kershner 3-0-0-9, Stano 2-1-2-7, Ferryman 1-1-1-3, Levitt 0-0-0-0, Taras 0-0-0-0, Vermillion 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 12-16-22-49.
N'western 19 8 9 20 - 56
Panther Vy. 12 9 12 16 - 49
Three pointers: Northwestern - T. Richardson 5; Panther Vy. - Kerschner 3, Stano 2, Szczecina 2, Kusko 1, Romanchik 1.