NASHVILLE — It certainly didn’t enhance Pinckneyville’s chances to see its best player, junior point guard Dawson Yates, on the shelf with a herniated disc.
But Yates’ presence might not have made 27 points worth of difference Saturday night in Assembly Hall, where Nashville guarded a shorthanded, guardable team very well in clinching a tie for the SIRR Mississippi title.
Holding the Panthers to 10 field goals and 31.2 percent field goal shooting, the Hornets avenged a January loss in Perry County by administering a 52-25 whipping on their Senior Night.
Carson Parker scored a game-high 17 points and Bryce Bultman added 14 for Nashville (28-2, 8-1), which on consecutive Saturdays has more than looked the part of a top-ranked team in Class 2A. After drilling Teutopolis, then ranked third in 2A, 57-39 last Saturday in the Rich Herrin Classic in Benton, the Hornets delivered another clinic in steak and potatoes basketball.
“I thought we guarded better,” Nashville coach Wayne Harre said. “We kept them in front of us. We were hoping we could do a better job of being quicker on our feet than the last time we played them, and we did.”
Pinckneyville (23-5, 7-2) has spent better than a month in the 2A rankings, checking in this week at 10th. The Panthers’ signature win was a 31-29 upset of the Hornets on Jan. 4 in which they used a four corners offense to control tempo and forced 14 turnovers that stymied Nashville’s offense.
In the rematch, Pinckneyville again sought a rush-hour traffic pace. It opted for a double-stack look around the foul line early, but its first four possessions ended in turnovers. All five starters committed at least one turnover in an eight-turnover, three-point first quarter that was a Kelton Linze 3-pointer with 5.1 seconds left away from being a shutout.
“I thought at the first of the game, we were very competitive even with the turnovers,” Panthers coach Bob Waggoner said. “But as the game wore on, their offensive skills were greater than ours, so they had easier baskets.
“It was a combination of things tonight. As a coach, you have to decide why did you score just 25 points. Was it their defense or a lack of offensive skills? I’d have to say it was a combination of both. There are things we can work on, and get better at doing.”
Parker and Bultman started driving downhill to the basket in the second quarter, scoring or setting up teammates for clean looks. Corner 3-balls by Tristen Hercules and Terry Pelczynski ignited Nashville’s attack. The lead grew from three to 16 before half’s end.
There was no mercy for Pinckneyville in front of a near-sellout crowd. Parker’s reverse layup in transition at the 4:44 mark of the third quarter made it 31-8, forcing a timeout. But there simply weren’t enough timeouts for the Panthers to make this one competitive for the game’s remainder.
The final 12 minutes or so were simply an exhibition of the attributes that make the Hornets a contender to win a state title. From defense to ball movement to two 6-5 guys in Bultman and Parker that can either create their own shot or pass for profit, Nashville has a pick-your-poison feel to it.
It certainly looks ready for a long postseason run, although Harre is ever-cautious, given basketball’s capricious nature.
“I think we’re going to play hard and give it a good shot,” he said, chuckling. “You know, you always hope you are (ready). We’re playing with confidence and the kids have played a lot of big games. I don’t think that’s going to hurt us.”
Hunter Riggins tallied 16 points for Pinckneyville, which put just three players in the scoring column.
Waggoner said after the game that Yates would see a doctor in St. Louis next week and possibly receive an epidural injection. The timetable for his return is unknown.