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Panthers withstand shelling

February 27, 2002|BY BILL STERNER / Staff Correspondent

HANCOCK - On the way to its most successful regular season in almost four decades, the Hancock boys basketball team played by a simple set of rules. Tuesday night in its Class 1A West playoff opener, it saw no reason to change things.

Hancock used its tried-and-true strengths - perimeter shooting, dogged defense and constant focus - to wear down another foe, beating hot-shooting Westmar 90-81 in front of a standing-room-only crowd.

"We challenged our kids and they came through," Hancock coach Jeff Spielman said. "We believe anything can happen."

Just about anything and everything did take place in this one, as Hancock (17-6) used a crucial surge at the end of the first quarter to give itself just enough cushion against the Wildcats and the uncanny accuracy of Bobby Alkire.

With Westmar leading 23-20 and under 20 seconds left in the first quarter, Hancock's John Poffenberger stripped Andrew Nicol of the ball at half court and scored. Seconds later, Poffenberger repeated the play and scored at the buzzer for a 24-23 lead.

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"John stepped it up tonight," Spielman said of the unheralded junior. "Our juniors get very little credit, but tonight he and (Jeremy) Newton made solid contributions."

Westmar hung around with a perimeter-oriented offense centered around Alkire. It hit 14 3-pointers on the night - an amazing nine by Alkire - but lost its touch in the second quarter and scored just nine points in the frame.

"It is what we do," Westmar coach Rick Scalletta said. "I guess you can say they used the smaller floor to their advantage, but bottom line - Hancock is quicker than us and tonight, they were better."

Newton, the Panthers' point guard, ended the game with only two turnovers and added 11 points. His mastery of getting the ball to the right player at the right time kept Westmar on their heels.

"We knew they had good shooters out there, too," Scalletta said. "When we came out after them, well, it was easy to see the result."

Hancock's own perimeter players hit nine 3s, and when the inside opened up, Poffenberger (18 points) and Brandon Fling (27 points) got easy baskets.

Trailing 70-56, the Wildcats started fouling early in the fourth quarter. But, uncharacteristically, the Panthers went cold at the line. Hancock hit only 16 of 32 free throws, allowing Westmar to cut the lead to 86-81 with just under 20 seconds left. But a Wills breakaway and a pair of Fling free throws iced it.

"We were a little nervous and a little tired," Fling said. "We will definitely shoot our free throws better on Thursday."

Hancock 90, Westmar 81


WESTMAR (81)

Nicol 18, Lee 5, Broadwater 13, Wampler 2, Alkire 31, Duncan 12. Totals 30 7-12 81

HANCOCK (90)

Newton 11, Robair 13, Wills 21, Poffenberger 18, Fling 27. Totals 28 28-49 90.

Westmar2391633-81

Hancock24182028-90

Three-point goals - Westmar 14 (Alkire 9, Nicol 4, Lee 1), Hancock 9 (Robair 4, Wills 3, Newton 2). Fouled out - Duncan, Wampler, Broadwater.

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