MOWEAQUA — With the hole Pana started the game in and the consistency Central A&M was playing with, Pana's third-quarter comeback attempt reasonably could've been all it had left.
But the fourth quarter was almost an entirely different game from the one that played out during the first 24 minutes Tuesday.
Down 14 entering the final period, Pana scored the first 10 points of the fourth quarter and the game's result was unclear until the final buzzer.
When once it looked like it would be a comfortable home opener for Central A&M (3-2), the Raiders only narrowly hung on for a 52-51 win.
"We got punched in the mouth. We waited until about the eight or nine count to get back up," Pana coach Adam Metzger said. "But we came out swinging in that fourth quarter."
Joe England sank a straight ahead 3-pointer to bring Pana within one point, 49-48, with 1:27 left on the clock, then the Panthers fouled the right player at the other end. A&M freshman Jacob Paradee missed a free throw on a 1-and-1.
Out of a timeout, Pana's Nick McMillen tried a 3-pointer but missed. Still, the Panthers got the rebound and Brock DeWerff ended up having a clean look at a layup for the lead, only he put nothing on it.
Paradee went back to the line after DeWerff's miss and made two this time, giving A&M a 51-48 lead. Later, Jameson Smith, who scored 16 points, made another free throw to secure the victory.
After Pana reeled the deficit back in to 52-51, a long inbounds pass by A&M ran out the time.
"For a freshman to do that in front of a big crowd is fantastic," Central A&M coach Rob Smith said of Paradee.
Pana trailed by 12 at the start of the second half and rallied to within eight points in the third quarter. A&M stopped the run and counter, taking a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter.
Seth Vaughn, who had scored four points in the first three quarters, put up eight points in the fourth quarter on 4-of-4 shooting to get the Panthers going.
It's Vaughn's first year playing high school basketball.
"(He) just does a great job doing some of the small things -- getting after the ball and rebounding," Metzger said. "Big spark plug for us right there in order to get us back in the game and give us a shot."
Pana came a long way just to be within one point. The Panthers (0-1) trailed 20-7 after the first quarter, in their first game of the season.
They made 3 of 14 shots and 1 of 6 free throws in the quarter. During that time, A&M was 9-of-15.
"They're a very good basketball team. Make no mistake, they're going to win a lot of games," Smith said of Pana. "We had some games under our belt. That was to our advantage tonight."
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Smith in transition
Jameson Smith is A&M's leading scorer so far this season, scoring more than 20 points twice already. He scored 16 Tuesday and was shut out in the first quarter, but eventually found his rhythm in transition.
He made four 3-pointers and has a quick release for it. His fourth-quarter free throw put the Raiders up four in the final minute.
"I don't think he took a shot for the first quarter or so, and finally he got loose and hit one," coach Smith said. "The key for guys like that is let the game come to you."
Pana left A&M a bit beat up, especially for a season opener.
Adam Miller came up limping after a hustle play out of bounds within the first minute of the game, which took him out of the game almost entirely.
Kyle Lynch left near the beginning of the fourth quarter comeback with a bloody lip. He had scored seven points but didn't return.
That's two of the Panthers' top three scorers from a year ago.
Two possessions around an offensive rebound by Jameson Smith in the fourth quarter were a sign that the Raiders' offense had gone cold.
Riley Black missed a shot on which he was fouled, then went to the free throw line and missed two attempts. After the second one, Smith corralled a rebound, the ball ended up back in Black's hands and the same thing happened -- fouled on a shot he missed, then nothing from two free throws.
For what it's worth, Black would've been a bit rusty. After scoring six points in the first quarter, foul trouble kept him benched most of the time.
Bugg out for now
An injury Jackson Bugg suffered during the last game of the Central A&M football season is keeping him on the sidelines for now, so he was sitting in the student section Tuesday.
Smith said he's looking forward to having the 6-foot senior back on the floor.
"He would've helped with the rebounding," Smith said.