PANA -- Right now, Pana girls basketball is all about hustle and aggression. Speed, really.
Through a half on Monday, the Panthers looked frozen solid.
But they started to thaw out during halftime and a few minutes into the third quarter reemerged like the team that's now on a four-game winning streak. Pana, before heading into a long winter break, took care of Nokomis 50-32.
"One of our assistants said it looked like we were up til 3:30 last night and got up at 7," Pana coach Jason Storm said. "It looked like we were sluggish, we couldn't get anything going. We have our speed, that's what we try to use all the time, and we didn't use it at all in the first half.
"The second half was a lot better. We started looking up and that's when we started to pull away."
Shania Schoonover offered an explanation.
"Finals were a little rough and none of us are caught up on our sleep," she said.
The matchup wasn't exactly in Pana's favor to start. The Panthers won't wow you with their size or height as the rotation tops off around 5-foot-8, and Nokomis features three juniors in the rotation that are nearing six foot.
But the game started to look up for Pana as the Panthers started to look down the floor after rebounds and steals. They quickly put together a 10-0 stretch in the third quarter and then put down a 12-0 stretch in the fourth.
"We really picked it up," Schoonover said. "We were hustling back, finally got out of our slump."
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The sophomore, Schoonover, scored 14 of her game-high 17 points in the second half by jetting upcourt once possession changed.
"I don't know if she's knocked down an outside shot deeper than six feet out the whole year, but she's definitely one that looks to take off running," Storm said. "She's the one who got us going on those fast breaks."
Schoonover's helped boost a senior-led starting lineup that knows how to start and finish the fast break themselves. In the middle of the 12-0 run in the fourth, Daylee Denton caught a rebound, fired it to Jenna Dudra, who set up Schoonover for the easy layup.
Dudra often turned fast breaks by herself, finishing with 9 points and four assists, and Denton had 12 points, five rebounds and two assists.
Defensively, Pana was able to keep Nokomis from closing the gap early. While Nokomis' tall juniors scored the bulk of the points (Taylor Lohman had 14 and McKenna Sanders had 10), the Panthers rebounded well and kept too many second-chance points from happening.
It's win number four in the past week and a half, a streak since a frustrating overtime loss to Carlinville. Storm said he's seen a different team since that early December game.
"I think we realized we were a lot better team than we personally think we are, and that motivated us," Denton said.
This is a team that made the jump last year, improving from 7 to 15 wins. As the season started, the number 20 was floated out there. But Storm has backed off using a hard number as a goal. Like their play on the court, just letting loose may be the best way to go.
"We're getting there," Storm said. "We kind of quit talking about it a little bit.
"We had a senior meeting a couple of weeks ago and one of them spoke up and said, not they felt too much pressure for it, but they didn't want to focus so much on that so we haven't said anything since then. We definitely made a good jump from 7 to 15, and we want to keep that going."