Panama Girls Fall In State Semifinal
TROY – Panama had no answer for Ava Howie and Landree Kenyon on Saturday morning.
Howie, Hammond’s sophomore guard, scored 28 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and handed out four assists, while Kenyon, the Red Devils’ junior forward, scored 25 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, handed out six assists, picked up three steals and blocked two shots as the Section X champions beat the Panthers 78-56 in a New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class D semifinal at Hudson Valley Community College.
“We didn’t have an answer for (Kenyon) and when we did try to double down low, they kicked it out to (Howie),” Panama head coach Dennis Hinsdale said. “(Howie) hit some 3s from the top of the key. I watched four games and she made maybe four total in four games.”
Section X has become a nemesis for the Panama girls basketball program. From 2015-17, Heuvelton – led by three-time Class D Player of the Year Paige McCormick – ended the Panthers’ season at the McDonough Sports Complex.
“I always said when I left Clymer that I always wanted to come back,” said Hinsdale, who won a state title as the Pirates’ head coach in 2010. ” … I got my chance this year, we just couldn’t make it work. There’s no shame in losing to that team. I’m proud of my girls. I thought they gave me everything they had. They played hard, but Hammond played a little harder.”
On Saturday, Hammond went 35 of 64 (54.7%) from the field, outrebounded the Panthers 41-19, and turned the ball over just five times before the Red Devils went to their reserves late in the fourth quarter.
“On film, they looked slow. They didn’t shoot like that,” Hinsdale said. “I knew we’d have trouble on the boards, that was my biggest fear.”
Senior Mandy Brink gave it all she had in the final game of a stellar career at Panama, scoring 26 points while handing out four assists.
“I’m not going to judge her career on one game,” an emotional Hinsdale said of Brink. “She’s a hell of an athlete. She still has my vote for Player of the Year in Western New York and New York state. … She basically carried this team. She made coaching really easy.”
Hammond went up 11-2 with 1:49 left in the first quarter, but Panama was able to survive with seven of the final nine points of the period, including a banked 3-pointer by Brink just before the buzzer.
But the Red Devils – whose only loss this season was to the Section X Class B champion Gouverneur – began to pull away in the second quarter, thanks to eight second-chance points, and led 38-26 at halftime.
“I’m not sure how you defend a fadeaway jump shot. I give that girl a lot of credit … that is one tough shot to make consistently,” Hinsdale said of Kenyon, who scored 11 points during the second quarter. “You might be able to get one out of seven or eight, but she shot it consistently. We didn’t have an answer for it.”
A 9-0 Hammond run to open the third quarter, including five points from Howie, made it 47-26 before Panama sophomore Kaitlyn Horton stopped the run with a pair of free throws.
Brink twice made it a 16-point game, first with a 3-pointer and then with an old-fashioned three-point play, but the game was already getting away from the Panthers.
“I thought we looked awfully slow,” Hinsdale said. “I thought we were too reliant on Mandy.”
Howie scored 13 straight points for her team near the end of the third quarter as Hammond led by 22 entering the final eight minutes.
“If you see how many loose balls there were, we didn’t get any of those,” Hinsdale said. “One time I called timeout and said ‘We had four girls laying on the floor and nobody came up with the ball.’ That’s heart. Their hearts were bigger than ours today.”
Now the Red Devils will have to deal with Section IV champion Oxford Academy, which beat Section II’s Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons 75-54 in Saturday’s second semifinal.
The Red Devils will be seeking their first state title since winning back-to-back championships in 2007 and 2008.
“I thought if we got past Hammond,” Hinsdale said, “we’d have a really good shot against Oxford.”
NOTES: Panama shot 20 of 58 (34.5%) from the field, including 3 of 18 from 3-point range, and turned the ball over six times. Junior Kylie Morgan had 11 points and six rebounds, while Horton had 8 points and six rebounds.
Brink 9 5 26, Schauman 1 0 2, Morgan 4 3 11, Horton 2 4 8, Odell 3 0 6, Range 1 0 2, Greene 0 1 1, Markham 0 0 0. Totals 20 13 56.
Cunningham 0 0 0, Sprabary 5 0 11, Manning 4 0 8, Kenyon 11 1 25, Howie 12 2 28, Woodcock 1 0 2, Vinch 2 0 4, Tulley 0 0 0, Jones 0 0 0, Downs 0 0 0. Totals 35 3 78.
3-point goals-Brink 3, Sprabary, Kenyon 2, Howie 2.
Panama 9 17 17 13 – 56
Hammond 13 25 27 13 – 78