ANNA — Dawson Yates returned from a back problem in good form, scoring 22 points to lead Pinckneyville to 55-39 win over host Anna-Jonesboro in a Class 2A boys basketball regional.
“My back’s been bothering me, so I was just trying to get back to 100 percent and tonight my back didn’t bother me at all,” said Yates, who helped clinch the school's fifth straight regional title. “So after the layoff I needed to get back in with the team, move the ball and get open shots — and more importantly, not force anything.”
Pinckneyville improved to 26-5 and will play Alton Marquette on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Du Quoin Sectional. Anna-Jonesboro finished its season with a 9-21 record.
“Dawson hadn’t done anything in two weeks as we tried to get him healthy,” said Pinckneyville coach Bob Waggoner. “Everybody did everything we could to get him ready for tonight, but it came down to Dawson feeling ready. He told me on Wednesday he thought he could go, and Thursday, he was moving better ... thank goodness we had him tonight, because if we didn’t might not have won. I thought he was the big x-factor.”
The Panthers shot over .500 for the game, hitting on 22-of-38 from the field, including 6-of-17 from beyond the arc.
“I thought Dylan Houghland’s three to start the third got us going and then we settled in,” Waggoner said. “I thought our depth and our pressure made them miss some shots they normally hit as they got worn down. The biggest difference was we controlled the boards.”
Anna-Jonesboro shot just .350 from the field (14-of-40) and made just 1-of-10 from long distance. It was the second and fourth quarters the Wildcats had their most trouble, making just 2-of-11 in the second and just 2-of-12 in the fourth when they were trying to cut into a 10-point deficit.
“We went through long stretches when we didn’t score,” said Anna-Jonesboro coach Mike Chamness. “I thought the difference in the game was in the third quarter when we cut it to five. Houghland hit a three and then Yates hit three three’s to go on a 14-3 run in about a two minute span, and they didn’t let us get much closer.”
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Tyler Smith and Blake Pena led the Wildcats with 16 and 14 points respectively.
The Panthers broke open a one-point game by scoring the last five points of the first quarter. Anna-Jonesboro cut the lead to three at the start of the second quarter, and after cutting a nine-point lead down to five in the first minute of the third quarter, the Panthers blistered the net, hitting four straight from beyond the arc, including three straight by Yates to put the game away.
“It took me a little bit to get into the flow of things — I was missing a few shots — but coach told me to keep shooting it and it will go in, and finally I got one and got my groove,” Yates said.
Following the blitz, Grant Tanner scored on a hook shot to up the lead to 16 points with 3:18 remaining in the third quarter. The closest the Wildcats could get the rest of the game was within10 points to open the fourth quarter.
Kelton Linze drained a three to give the Panthers their first lead 7-6 with 3:52 remaining in the first quarter.
Conner Jerolds tied the game for the third time when he was fouled and split a pair of free throws, but Duke Riggins sank another three to get the lead back for the Panthers.
Blake Pena stole the ball and scored to cut the lead back to one, but the Panthers closed out the first quarter on a 5-0 run to take a 15-9 lead into the second quarter.
Pena opened the second quarter with a three-point play on a putback and a free throw. After Noah McFarland came up empty on two missed free throws, the Panthers closed out the first half on an 8-2 run to take a 25-16 lead into halftime.