Panthers boys basketball team hangs tough but falls to Wrightstown

Dustin Riese

When it comes to the Oconto Falls Panthers (6-16, 2-14), things haven’t always been pretty, but they have at least been competitive in a lot of games.

That rang true against the Wrightstown Tigers (11-11, 9-7) on Feb. 13 as the Tigers entered their game riding a two-game conference winning streak. Not the same Tigers team of the past, the Panthers held their own most of the night and were within 49-44 with fewer than five minutes to go. That was until a series of turnovers led to an 11-1 Tigers run to put the game out of reach as the Panthers lost 60-50.

One thing about the Panthers this season as opposed to teams in the past is that they have done a much better job starting off strong. Compare that to the past few seasons when they often found themselves down by 20 or more points at the half, and you can see how much improvement this team has made this season. Wrightstown was another prime example of that as the Panthers’ defense came up huge several times in the first half to keep the Tigers’ offense in check while their offense did what they had to do.

A big reason for the Panthers overall success in the first half was the play of Jameson Beaman and Alex Haines, who continue to lead the way for this group. Haines has a knack for getting into transition quickly, turning fast break opportunities into easy buckets while Beaman has shown the ability to step outside and inside. Both of them combined for 27 points on the night with Beaman leading the way with 17 points and Haines adding 10.

JJ Pytleski come through with 10 points as those three not only accounted for 37 of the teams 50 points, but helped the Panthers secure a 29-28 lead over the Tigers after one half of play. Once the second half got rolling, the Tigers came out with a different sense of urgency as they wanted to speed up the tempo.

For the most part, the Panthers matched that tempo as the Tigers were unable to open up a significant lead. However, once Ethan Cyra got going offensively, the momentum started to shift. Cyra scored a game-high 24 points, with half of them coming from beyond the arc.

With Cyra doing his thing offensively, it came down to the Tigers' defense, especially late in the game. Holding a 49-44 lead with just under five minutes to go, Wrightstown began to toughen up on defense and forced the Panthers to work their offense more than they would’ve liked.

That resulted in several costly turnovers including a couple of steals by Aiden Humphries who converted three of them into late-game layups as part of that 11-1 run late. Humphries finished the game with 12 points.