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Perfect Timing

Playing Its Best All Season, Panama Tops No. 1 Clymer

Panama’s Kylie Morgan is surrounded by Clymer’s Ava Nyweide, Natalie White and Elli Bodamer during Thursday’s Section VI Class D semifinal game at Jamestown Community College’s Physical Education Complex. P-J photo by Matt Spielman

JAMESTOWN — Panama lost 10 straight games to open the season under first-year head coach Nicole Peterson.

Now the Panthers are going to play for a sectional title.

Sophomore Kiera Loberg had 16 points, four steals and four assists, while junior Kaitlyn Horton added 14 points and three steals as No. 4 Panama beat No. 1 Clymer 53-44 in the second Section VI Class D semifinal Thursday evening at Jamestown Community College’s Physical Education Complex.

“We had a tough start to our season playing Randolph, Southwestern and Frewsburg at the beginning,” Peterson said. “It pushed us to find our flaws early and play our best ball at the end.”

“In the beginning of the season, it was definitely rough,” Panthers senior Kylie Morgan added. ” … I could even tell in our games when we played here during a tournament that we were definitely starting to come together.”

Clymer’s Elli Bodamer (23) attempts to block a shot by Panama’s Kaitlyn Horton (21). At right is the Lady Panthers’ Kylie Morgan. P-J photo by Matt Spielman

Now the Panthers, who won Section VI and Far West Regional titles last year before losing in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association semifinals in Troy, will face rival Sherman looking for the sixth sectional crown in program history.

“I never doubted these girls. It definitely took us a while to find our groove,” Peterson said. ” … We have two amazing posts who know how to work and we finally got Kiera Loberg up, who can run our point.”

Despite losing to the Pirates twice during the regular season and Clymer carrying a lofty ranking from the New York State Sportswriters Association for much of the year, Panama looked ready for an upset victory from the opening tip Thursday.

Junior Cassie Lyon hit her first of three 3-pointers midway through the first quarter to give the Panthers a 7-2 advantage and Loberg’s personal 5-0 run to close the period allowed Panama to lead 14-8 after eight minutes.

“Clymer is a great team. They beat us twice,” Morgan said. “We were definitely a little nervous, but we shook those nerves out.”

Senior Alexys Neckers took over with a 7-0 run to start the second quarter, giving Clymer its first lead of the game at 15-14 with five minutes remaining. Neckers later tied the game with a 3-pointer and junior Ava Nyweide gave the Pirates another lead at 20-18, but again the Panthers scored the final five points of the quarter to lead 25-20 at halftime.

“Panama played very well and shot the ball very well,” Clymer head coach Dave Bodamer said. “In the playoffs, you have to show up each night if you want to advance.”

Nyweide hit a 3-pointer and junior Janelle Burchanowski hit a jumper as Clymer tied the game early in the third quarter, but an 8-0 Panama run ensued to make it 33-25 with 2:23 remaining in the period.

Burchanowski ended the run with a 3-pointer, but Panthers freshman Jessica Lyon and Loberg closed the quarter with 3-pointers of their own as Panama led by 11 entering the final quarter.

“We’ve been playing with fire offensively,” Bodamer said. “We’re not an offensive juggernaut. If we struggle like we did tonight, this is what’s going to happen.”

The Pirates twice closed to within seven late, but 3-pointers from Cassie Lyon and Loberg in the closing moments ended any thoughts of a Clymer comeback.

“You have to give them credit, they made the shots and we didn’t,” Bodamer said. “The fight was there and the will was there, we just didn’t shoot the ball well enough.”

Panama will put a six-game winning streak on the line Saturday when it takes on Sherman for the third time this season. The Wildcats won 51-41 on Jan. 10, while the Panthers won 39-37 on Feb. 5.

“I think we are running on a high right now. They have improved this entire season. … Everything is falling into place and they are gelling together,” Peterson said. “We have high hopes and confidence that we will go into this game playing the best ball that we can play.”

NOTES: Cassie Lyon finished with 11 points and seven rebounds, while Morgan had 8 points and 13 rebounds for Panama, which shot 17 of 39 from the field, including 7 of 16 from 3-point range, and survived 26 turnovers. … Nyweide had 9 points, while Neckers had seven steals, five rebounds and five assists for Clymer, which shot 17 of 56 from the field, including 4 of 16 from 3-point range, and turned the ball over 15 times.

PANAMA (53)

Cavness 0 0 0, CLyon 4 0 11, Flikkema 0 0 0, Morgan 2 4 8, Horton 5 4 14, Loberg 5 3 16, Markham 0 1 1, JLyon 1 0 3. Totals 17 12 53.

CLYMER (44)

EJohnson 0 0 0, Heslink 0 0 0, Nyweide 4 0 9, White 0 0 0, Burchanowski 2 0 5, Neckers 10 5 27, LJohnson 0 1 1, Bodamer 1 0 2. Totals 17 6 44.

3-point goals–CLyon 3, Loberg 3, JLyon.

Panama 14 11 14 14 — 53

Clymer 8 12 8 16 — 44

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