KNOX, Pa. – A huge first half gave the Panthers a lead that would stand from start to finish in a 50-24 victory over visiting Redbank Valley. Keystone outscored Redbank Valley 16-3 in the opening quarter and 29-9 in the first half, enabling the Panthers to slow things down and seal the victory in the second half.
The win avenges Keystone’s earlier loss to the Bulldogs, and Keystone’s head coach Josh Almes knew that his team was eager to make a statement in tonight’s contest.
“These girls have had their eye on this game since the loss. That was a big win for our program today. All of our respect goes to Redbank, they’re a tough opponent, and they give us a lot of trouble, so that was a hard-fought victory for us today.”
Keystone’s Emily Lauer led all scorers with 24 points, and Natalie Bowser also scored 13 for the Panthers. Jozee Weaver added 8 points for Keystone. Madison Foringer was the lone Bulldog in double figures with 11 points.
The Panthers got off to a roaring start, shooting out to a 13-1 lead. Keystone’s defense was superb during their run, forcing the Bulldogs to settle for poor quality shots while cleaning up on the defensive glass. Keystone’s offense was driven by Lauer, who scored 10 points in the quarter. Weaver also put in a good first quarter shift, scoring four points. A late exchange of points left the Panthers up 16-3 going into the second quarter.
The second quarter adopted a much slower pace, with both teams struggling to find their inside scoring touch. The Bulldogs started to find their rhythm midway through the quarter, finding success at the free-throw line to cut the Panthers’ lead to 10. Just as the Bulldogs looked to grab some momentum, Lauer hit two threes to end the run and swing things back in Keystone’s favor. The Panthers ended the quarter on an 11-1 run, extending their lead to 29-7 at the half.
The Panthers’ offense did a tremendous job of breaking down Redbank Valley’s 2-3 zone, getting open looks, and scoring both inside and from beyond the arc.
“Tonight, we did a lot of things well,” said Almes. “We tried to attack the areas of the zone that we felt gave us a matchup advantage. Natalie Bowser did a tremendous job, as she was sealing [defenders] three or four times in a play. I thought Jozee Weaver and Emily Lauer did a nice job being patient and looking for opportunities. That was a really great team effort on offense.”
The pace quickened in the third quarter, with both teams exchanging baskets and finding success from their set plays. Natalie Bowser connected twice down low for Keystone, while the Bulldogs connecting on a few open looks. The teams’ offensive fortunes worsened in the latter half of the quarter as the game pace became frantic and shots stopped falling. The squads exchanged baskets to end the third, with Keystone maintaining their healthy lead, keeping the margin at 23 going into the fourth quarter.
Keystone was content to hold the ball during their fourth-quarter possessions, slowly letting the clock waste away. Despite slowing down the pace, the Panthers were still able to find some offense in the period, taking their time to find good shot opportunities. Both squads rotated out their starters at the end of the quarter, and the game ended with a 50-24 Keystone victory.
The Panthers improve their record to 16-2, while the Bulldogs drop to 15-5 overall.
An interview with Keystone head coach Josh Almes