MONTICELLO -- After staring at a 14-point deficit in the first quarter, Warrensburg-Latham regrouped.
After missed shots and passes to teammates that weren't looking, Reis Kendrick gave the Cardinals a jolt. He drained two 3-pointers and helped push Warrensburg into a tie with Paxton-Buckley-Loda at the half.
But the Panthers unleashed more 3-pointers and a lockdown defense in the second half, which carried PBL to a 51-38 victory in the Class 2A Monticello Sectional semifinal on Wednesday night.
"The second half, though, we went 5-for-28," Warrensburg coach Vic Binkley said. "You're not going to win any ballgames shooting 5-for-28.
"So that was the difference. And no matter what we did, it seemed like they hit some nice shots."
That was likely something fans from both sides muttered after a couple of Andrew Zenner jumpers.
The beefy 6-4 senior has range, and perhaps no shot of his was as important as the one near the start of the third quarter. As PBL was reeling from a 16-2 Warrensburg run before halftime, Zenner took a dribble to his left, created space and quickly sank a 3. That triggered a 12-0 run from PBL and erased all of Warrensburg's positive momentum.
"You can play him inside, you can play him outside," PBL coach Adam Schonauer said. "He causes mismatch problems. On top of it, he's probably our toughest kid the way he practices.
"His ability to spread the floor, to play inside and handle the ball, it makes it easier on everybody else."
Zenner was the man who haunted Warrensburg last year in this same spot, the sectional semifinal. After he scored 17 last season, he dropped 21 on Wednesday. He made 4 of 6 3-pointers and converted 7 of 9 from the line.
Joe Gustafson was the leading scorer for Warrensburg with 13, turning baskets through drives into the paint or grabbing rebounds. Kendrick added nine more points.
Warrensburg made a late run, scoring seven straight points midway through the fourth quarter. PBL hung onto the ball, though, and made free throws when needed.
In that two-minute stretch, the Cardinals scored two more points than they had in the previous 12.
"That ball press speeds you up and they always got you on your toes," Binkley said. "It speeds you up. We found a hole and we didn't attack it enough. We could get layups -- we saw that at the end."
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A couple minutes in, the situation looked dire for Warrensburg. After PBL sank three straight 3-pointers, the Cardinals were down 11-2.
But they fought back, and by halftime it looked like this was turning into a solid game. Unfortunately for Warrensburg, it couldn't buy a shot.
Several misses fell short and it seemed like tired legs were becoming a factor. Warrensburg had terrible luck as well -- multiple layups rattled all around the hoop before somehow spitting out.
"If we get beat, we'd like to play our best. And we didn't play our best," Binkley said. "Maybe PBL didn't allow us to play our best, that's something we'll never know. I know we can shoot the ball a little better than this."
Keeping the tradition
It started to really come through for Binkley at the Williamsville tournament.
He knew this group could be good, but wins against teams like Petersburg PORTA and Deer-Creek Mackinaw started to show him what kind of team Warrensburg could be.
After losing seven seniors and all five starters, Warrensburg finished 22-7 and took home more hardware.
"To come back out and win the conference, win the regional and get back beat by the same team that beat us last year," Binkley said, "it's a special year."
Monticello lands PBL in the sectional final on Friday. It's a series split this year with PBL winning 73-55 in December before Monticello won 59-38 three weeks later.
"We have to rebound the basketball," Schonauer said of the matchup. "Instead of one big guy, they have three big guys that are active and strong and athletic. They live in the paint. We have the live in the paint and keep them off the glass and make them beat us with jump shots."