Written by Joe Hubbs and DM by Ryan St. Hill.
Senior Day left a bittersweet taste for the Panthers who started off hot in Saturday’s conference basketball game against MacMurray. Unfortunately, the Panthers faltered in the second half and ended up losing 85-64. Senior Jordan Smith led Greenville with 12 points, but it was not enough against a hot MacMurray team who dominated down low the entire afternoon.
Donning the old school, ‘peculiar’ style warm ups, the Panthers came out confident, starting their five healthy seniors. The Panthers started out sloppy, fumbling the ball around a little bit, but Kyle Martin and Smith drained a few early jump shots. However, MacMurray quickly picked apart the Panthers 2-3 zone, finding senior Luke Bishop for two straight three pointers. He would end the game shooting a lights out 7-12 from the three point line for 27 points. The Panthers also had no answer for 6-8 sophomore, Clayton Whitlock, who commanded the ball in the paint and allowed no offensive rebounds. The Panthers quickly went down 16-9 and Coach Barber was forced to call a timeout.
An unusual bench due to Senior Day gave the Panthers quite a spark after the timeout. Todd Albertson helped slow down the strong post play of Whitlock, and normal starters Alex Mumphard and Daniel Anderson both brought in some strong defense and quick ball movement to get the Panthers going again. Barber went to a full court press and Greenville was able to get 2 steals that steered the way to a 33-31 Panthers lead. This did not last long. Whitlock and the Highlanders refused to give up a rebound, and a tip at the buzzer put MacMurray up 44-42 at half.
When the second half began, the Panthers were lethargic. The energy and ball movement that kept them in the first half seemed to disappeared. MacMurray’s Bishop nailed a few more threes and even when Whitlock left the game for an extended period the Panthers could not accomplish anything inside. Smith and Simon Martin fought to keep Greenville in the game, but with ten minutes left, they had fallen behind by ten points. The Panthers started missing layups and frustration kicked in causing desperation jump shots that wouldn’t fall. After an offensive rebound and put back by Whitlock, the Panthers went down 72 to 60, the first time trailing by more than ten. They never recovered. The seniors all went back on their home court for the last time in the final two minutes of the game to say farewell to their school and fans.
The Panthers are now 9-15 on the season. There last game is 8:00 Tuesday night at Fontbonne.
Notes from the game:
Second half starters: I love Senior Day on a Division 3 sports team. All the seniors are celebrated; they read off their accomplishments and have a nice little ceremony before the game. I understand starting the five healthy seniors at the beginning of the game. It is a nice gesture and honestly didn’t hurt. However, when you have been struggling all season, the fans are enthused to see a halftime score only down by two points. Go for the win. Put your best players out there to start the second half and try to push ahead. Todd Albertson went 3-5 with great post defense, and Alex Mumphard commands the offense like no one else on Greenville’s court. These guys needed to play if we wanted to continue to compete.
What happened to the defense? : The first half was defined by terrible defense from both teams. While MacMurray came out with adjustments and more intensity, it seemed as if Greenville played the same way. Clayton Whitlock is not Shaq, but he could not be stopped in the paint. Secondly, if a guy is shooting 58 percent from the three point line like Bishop, you need to get in his face. Greenville didn’t switch to man defense until 5 minutes left to go. With man defense they could double team Whitlock in the post, and get in the jump shooters face. When the adjustment came, the defense intensified tremendously, but it simply came too late. Also, what happened to the full court press? At the end of the first half, Alex Mumphard and Daniel Anderson shined with the pressure defense to get the Panthers back in the game. Coming out of the half, Greenville ceased the pressure and MacMurray began to put it on them.
The Fouling Exhibition: It is common to see the fouling game start when you are down by a few points at the end of a game. From what I have seen, it rarely works unless you are playing against Shaq or Ben Wallace. At five minutes left in the game, we were down by 14 points and we started hacking. I don’t think coach told his guys to start fouling, and maybe they weren’t even intentional, but it turned a 14 point deficit into a 20 point deficit quickly. The transition to man defense caused some stops, but we have to stay disciplined to keep it affective.
Note for the Seniors: To Ben Giertz, Simon Martin, Kyle Martin, Dan Mays, Jay Mercer, and Jordan Smith – thanks for all the time you have devoted this year to the Greenville Panthers basketball team. I wish you the best of luck in your last game of the season at Fontbonne and in what you decide to do after Greenville.