TRENTON — A favorable turnover-to-trey ratio in the first half led Pinckneyville to a 55-33 win over Nashville in the Class 2A Wesclin Sectional Wednesday.
Trailing 17-16 early in the second quarter, the Panthers forced three straight Nashville turnovers. The Nashville miscues resulted in a Grant Jausel 3-pointer, a Jausel runout and a Devin Kitchen trey.
After a defensive stop, Kitchen tacked on another trey. That run turned the one-point deficit into a 27-17 lead. The Panthers never looked back.
“I thought our execution of our defensive game plan was as good as we could have,” said Pinckneyville coach Bob Waggoner. “We limited their second opportunities. We kept their drivers in front of us. We did an excellent job of switching and talking through it and making sure they didn’t get open lanes to the rim.”
“I thought their defense was the key to the game,” said Nashville coach Wayne Harre. “We really couldn’t do a whole lot and they got a lot of offense from their defense. That doesn’t surprise us. They were just the better team tonight. Let’s be honest they were a little stronger, a little quicker to loose balls. You have to give Pinckneyville credit.”
In addition to Pinckneyville’s stellar defense, the Panthers were deadly from the perimeter. Pinckneyville held a 29-18 advantage of the half. Twenty-one of their first half points came from the arc.
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“I just think our depth is a big key,” Waggoner said. “We can run a lot of people at you. Our kids are kind of cookie cutters. They do a great job of rotating in and playing. In the first half we rotated in our two post kids, Kitchen and (Tanner) Spihlmann and they gave us a huge lift on the offensive end and we didn’t lose anything on the defensive end. That was when we made our run."
Defensively, the Panthers were just as impenetrable in the second half, but Pinckneyville gave the Hornets a totally different offensive look. After hitting seven 3-pointers in the first half, the Panthers went into attack mode. They didn’t look to shoot from the perimeter, instead they scored on strong drives to the lanes or back cuts.
“I just think we changed our game plan a little bit,” Waggoner said. “We thought they were a little bit tired and in foul trouble. We thought we could attack the rim on them and get easy looks and some easy kick outs. We wanted to give them two different looks.”
Pinckneyville never led by less than nine points in the second half.
“They can handle the ball,” Harre said. “They all handle it. They can spread you out and back cut. We’re limited on our quickness some times. When they spread you like that, it’s a tough chore unless you have enough quickness to stay with them.”
Jausel led all scorers with 16 points. Bryce Bultman led Nashville with 10 points, all in the first half.
Pinckneyville, 29-3 advances to the sectional final, facing Wesclin at 7 p.m. Friday.
On Twitter: @LesWinkeler