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March 16, 2010 4:20 am

So close

Written by Tribune Staff

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Powell's Hannah Pollart is tightly guarded on this drive of the lane against Jackson. Pollart finished the contest with a double-double, netting 18 points and hauling down 13 rebounds in the final game of a stellar prep career. Tribune photo by Don Amend

State title eludes Panthers in double-overtime

The Powell Panthers unleashed a spirited comeback, put in some extra time, endured an unkind bounce of the basketball and, in the end, were again relegated to the role of Class 3A state runner-up by a 49-42 double-overtime loss to Jackson. This marks the second year the Lady Broncs derailed Powell's title hopes.

“That was a game for the ages,” Panther head coach Luke Danforth said of Saturday's 3A championship contest. “It was a great game for the kids to be a part of. It was a classic, one of those games you hate to see someone lose, but that's the way you play the game and we wound up on the short end of the straw.”

It wasn't for lack of trying. After trailing by seven in the second half and still behind by four, 37-33, with 26 seconds remaining, the Panthers uncorked a rally. Junior Leslie Thronburg hustled down the floor to pull Powell within two.

Senior Katie Kipp followed with a steal as Jackson brought the ball up the floor, triggering a fast break in which the ball was tipped by the Lady Broncs straight into the hands of Thronberg, who tied the contest with four seconds remaining to force overtime.

“Katie made a great steal,” said Danforth. “It was just a great defensive play. Then she goes to throw it to Hannah (Pollart) on the break and the ball gets tipped. Savannah (Donarski) got a hand on it and got it over to Leslie and she did a great job hitting the shot.”

After a Jackson free throw to begin the first extra stanza, Donarski gave Powell its first lead since the first quarter by converting a pair of foul shots. A shot by the Broncs, followed by a Pollart free throw left the game tied at 40-40 with about one minute to play.

The Panthers opted to hold the basketball for a final shot.

“All season, we've done a good job of holding the ball in late-quarter and late-game situations and getting a last shot,” Danforth said of the decision. “We felt like we had some plays in our back pocket that we felt confident with, so we ran the clock down, called a time out with 10 seconds and then ran a play to get a shot.”

In actuality, the Panthers got three shots. Pollart took the inbound pass and put up a shot with Jackson defenders draped all over her. The senior attempted to tip the put-back into the hoop as well before the ball was knocked outside to Thronburg, whose shot just before the buzzer appeared destined to drop, only to spin out, prompting a second overtime period.

“I thought it was in,” Danforth said. “It was in. It hit everything except the bottom of the net. We were half an inch away from being the state champions.”
In the second overtime, Jackson took control. After more than two and a half minutes of scoreless basketball, the Broncs took the lead for good on an offensive put-back, then added a trio of free throws.

The Panthers weren't able to score until Pollart hit a basket with 25 seconds remaining. Jackson hit four free throws in the closing seconds to wrap up the game.

“They hit the free throws they needed to outdistance us at the end,” said Danforth. “Obviously, this was a much closer game than seven points.”

And, for much of the contest, the game was a lot closer. Powell jumped out to a four-point lead early before a host of Jackson 3-point buckets put the Broncs in charge.

“They came out and hit some 3-pointers, give them credit,” said Danforth. “We knew they'd made some over the course of the year, but they did a good job of coming out and hitting those shots early on us.”

In all, the Broncs knocked down four treys in the first half, the last of which staked the defending state champions to a 19-12 lead. Powell, behind the strength of Pollart's play in the paint, scored the final six points of the first half to enter intermission trailing by just one point.

Of Powell's 18 first-half points, Pollart was responsible for 13 as the Panthers rode their season scoring leader.

“Hannah had an extraordinary first half,” said Danforth. “Shots were hard to come by for her because she had two or three people over her whenever she touched the ball inside, but she made them count.”

Jackson opened the second half with back-to-back 3-point buckets to re-establish a seven-point lead. Like the first half, the Panthers didn't panic and began to chip away. The Jackson lead was four points entering the fourth quarter, 29-25, but the Panthers pulled level on a Thronburg bucket with 4:38 to play.

From there, Jackson and Powell exchanged buckets until a late turnover and pair of Jackson free throws left the score at 37-33, setting up the drama of the final 26 seconds.

Pollart finished her high school career with 18 points and 13 rebounds in the championship contest. Thronberg added 11 points and Donarski reached double figures with 10 points. Kipp accounted for Powell's three other points on the night and also had nine rebounds as Powell held a 40-33 advantage on the boards.

“I am so proud of these kids,” Danforth said. “When you start out, you make a goal that you want to be playing in the final game of the year, and we were able to do that. They played like champions out there. I'm just proud as heck of this group.”

Pollart, Donarski, Kipp and Kami Cooley saw their final action as seniors for the Panthers in the championship contest.

“They were a good group that worked so hard in the gym,” Danforth said. “They've been a big part of Powell basketball and we'll definitely miss them next year. They were good ones and I have no doubt they'll be successful at whatever they do."