Panthers survive fourth quarter rally against Elks, 46-43

Jan. 24—PALESTINE — A fourth-quarter thriller went in favor of the Westwood Panthers on Friday as they held on to beat the Elkhart Elks, 46-43.

A packed crowd and an energetic atmosphere fueled Friday’s district rivalry between Westwood and Elkhart. It was the first meeting of the season for both teams as they completed the first round of district play.

Westwood took a 10-3 lead midway through the first quarter. A pair of extended free throws from Brandon Russell that lead to 12-3 later in the quarter. The Elks eventually found their second field goal of the quarter on a Coen Starr buzzer-beater three as Westwood still led 12-6 entering the second.

Elkhart’s offensive production in the second quarter was much smoother than the first. After Russell opened the second by scoring his first five points, Elkhart responded with a 10-1 run over the next four minutes. Production by Cale Starr, Jadyn Chapman and Coen directed the run.

A hard grab from Josh Davis resulted in a bucket and a foul for the and-1 opportunity. He cashed in at the line giving them a four-point lead until Cale converted at the opposite end to cut the lead to two. The Panthers still held a 21-19 halftime lead.

The Elks’ offensive production wasn’t as inconsistent in the third quarter as it was in the first quarter, but they still allowed Westwood to outscore them 16-10. Westwood opened the quarter on a 7-0 run behind five points from Shannon Jackson. An and-1 conversion from Cale temporarily stopped Westwood’s run as they still trailed by six. A quick layup from Davis cut their lead to eight before Tyler Stafford responded with an inside score.

The two teams continued to trade buckets with Leondric Lacy scoring the final bucket of the third to give Westwood a 37-29 advantage going into the fourth.

Elkhart refused to let Westwood get too far ahead of them as the opening minutes of the fourth saw them put up a 10-2 run. Cale sparked their run with straight threes. He turned around later as his two free throws tied the game at 39 with 4:45 left on the ball.

Inspired by his big brother’s play, Coen drove the lane and froze his defender with a fake push before cashing in a free throw line jumper to give the Elks their first lead since the first quarter. The Panthers remained calm and responded with a 7-0 run. Russell scored seven of the last eight points for Westwood, giving him a game-high 22 points.

Cale led the Elks in scoring with 16 — eight of those coming in the fourth quarter.

About Kimberly Alley

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