TOLEDO – Only the Whitmer Panthers know how they felt following their regular season loss to the Libbey Cowboys, 72-39. It was a difficult night for the Panthers and they probably never dreamt that it could happen again but last night, in the Toledo City League semi-finals, the Cowboys once again over-whelmed the Panthers, 78-37.
Once again, the Panthers were never in the game.
The Cowboys jumped out to eight unanswered points within the first four minutes and the Panthers never recovered.
The Cowboys, coming off a disappointing performance last week against Rogers, were a different team Tuesday night. They contested every shot and pass attempted by the Panthers and the effect was demonstrated by the fact that Whitmer made only five of their first 22 shot attempts while the Cowboys were lighting up the nets by shooting better than 70 percent before cooling off late in the second quarter.
By then, the Cowboys were flirting with a twenty point lead and the Panthers were beginning to become frustrated.
Whitmer’s game plan was to slow the game down and attempt to stay close by taking and hitting quality, short-range shots. Unfortunately for Whitmer, the game plan had be abandoned early when the shots were not falling. Adding to Whitmer’s woes was the fact that their leading scorer and offensive general, Ryne Smith, picked up three fouls in the first half limiting his effectiveness. Smith finished the game with only three points.
The Cowboys struggled against Rogers last week. They eventually won the game, 60-49, but the Cowboys were never able to put away the Rams (4-14) and Libbey coach Leroy Bates was not pleased with his teams’ effort.
Tuesday night, things were different.
“I thought the guys played a really focused basketball game,” said Libbey coach Bates. “I think the way they came out in the first quarter they put pressure on their shooters and kind of took them off balance a bit and then we ran our offense extremely well. And to run an offense the way they did then, you know, it is going to be tough for any team to beat us.”
The Cowboys have been most successful this year when they get balanced efforts from the whole team and, unlike their game with Rogers, this time Libbey received offensive contributions from 10 separate players. William Buford was the leading scorer with 20 but Tony Brown added 15 and Brad Sandridge 10.
The big key to the victory was the Cowboys’ ability to completely shut down Whitmer’s top scorer, Ryne Smith. Smith hit a three pointer midway through the first quarter and never saw another basket fall the remainder of the evening. To add insult to injury, he also fouled out with nearly six minutes remaining in the third quarter. His exit, along with teammate Antwan Willis’ at the same time due to an injury to his head, erased any small chance the Panthers might have had at staging a comeback.
“Yea, we matchup poorly against them but so does everyone,” said Whitmer head coach Bruce Smith. “They’re quicker than us at every position. They’re longer than us at every position so you really need to do a good job at screening and cutting and we knew it was critical to make some baskets early to hang with them for a quarter, a quarter and a half, and, as you can tell we were 5 for 22 at halftime and it was over.”
With their win the Libbey Cowboys keep themselves in position to repeat as Toledo City League champions. They will face Toledo St. John’s who won the evening’s second game, 41-37, in overtime against Toledo Waite. The game will be played Thursday, February 14 at 7 p.m.