By Allen Hamrick
The CCHS Panthers have done what many naysayers predicted they could ever do again, and that is to win the Regional championship and return once again to the Charleston Civic Center for another chance at a state basketball title. This group of Panthers has one of the best chances of bringing the title to the halls of CCHS. They are a team machine that goes 110 percent full on basketball from the beginning of the buzzer to the last seconds of the game. Not since 2006 have the Panthers had a chance at the big dance at the state tournament.
The Panthers earned the right to have the Regional game played at home in front of the home crowd, and that would prove to be a plus. If you were at the game, you know that words could not really give credence to what took place. It was probably one of the top ten basketball games ever played in the Panthers’ gym, if not top five. The Panthers were pitted against Frankfurt a team that had nothing to lose and everything to gain. Their record for the season stood at 4-8, but that was a little misleading due to the fact that their schedule was stacked with great teams. It was plain to see that they were not going to be a team that would be easy to beat, and this was obvious after the first half of play. The Panthers did not make the mistake of underestimating them and blow their chance at a championship, so they played like it was get the win or forget supper.
This game once again filled the gym on both sides with screaming fans and once again packed the stands with a Pit that rivaled the good ol’ days of pitdom. Everybody was ready for a game that would bring them back to a place where everything seemed normal; two great teams going at it tooth and nail and settled in the end by the fraction of a second. It was a game that gave new meaning to the phrase, “You can’t see the forest for the trees.” It was small details that turned the tide for the Panthers and gave them the win in the end. We look at a game with an overall set of eyes that only looks at the big picture, like it was a great offense or a great defense that was instrumental in the win. While both of these teams had both a good defense and offense, I would argue that it was the finest of details that gave the win to the Panthers in the end – each player doing their job and doing it to perfection.
The first period began and both teams came out smoking the nets as the Panthers took the early lead going into the second period 16-15. The second period started much like the first, but the Panthers started losing ground. Frankfurt couldn’t seem to miss on the boards and the Panthers’ sights were knocked off a little as they went into the half down by seven points at 29-36. The Panthers would have to start playing catch-up ball, and it was not a good place to be. When the boys came out for the third period, it was a different ball game as both teams turned up the heat on defense, and the game turned into defensive chaos. Neither team gained much ground on the boards, and the Panthers were still behind eight points going into the 4th period. At one time early on in the 4th period, the Panthers were down by 11, and the prospects of a championship bid looked like they were flying out the window quick. However, the fans didn’t give up and neither did the Panthers, and it was in the 4th where the magic came in. All the Panthers had on their mind was winning as the offense picked up the slack and the defense became relentless with in your face basketball which threw off the game plan of Frankfurt as they managed just nine points. The Panthers brought the game down to the final seconds after an inbound steal from Curtis Litton gave the Panthers new fuel. The score stood at 52-53; a foul was called on the Panthers and sent Frankfurt to the cheat line. They buried both shots, making the score to 52-55 with 9.1 seconds left on the clock. The Panthers brought the ball out as the seconds ticked off quickly. There was a sense of, “Well, maybe next year,” but with one last effort the ball was tossed back to ace three point shooter Colton Pritt, who shot the ball from nearly half court with tenths of a second left in the game. All eyes were on the flight of the ball as it hit the backboard and went through the net as the buzzer went off signaling the end of regular time. It was pure pandemonium in the gym, and one knew that they were well on their way to the Final 8.
With four minutes in over time, the Panthers went to work scoring 15 points to win the Regional title with the final score being 70-60. It was a great game, and one that will be remembered for a long time. In the shot count it was Colton Pritt who hit for 18 points in the game followed closely by Curtis Litton with 16, Tanner Faulkner with 14 and Ethan Burkhamer with 11. The Panthers will play at 11:15 AM on Tuesday against Chapmanville; it should be a good one. Congratulations to the Panthers on a great win!