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Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

Panthers fend off Railroaders for sixth win

By Gary R. Rasberry

Parkway's Kayle Heckler, 22, Sierra Fent, 42, and Cami Hellwarth, 5, close in on. . .

ROCKFORD - Parkway's girls basketball game with Bradford on Tuesday night was big on two levels.
The first was the Panthers beat the Railroaders 52-49 to move them to 6-7, doubling their win total from a year ago.
The second was while the Panthers gave up a 15-point lead in the final minute of the game but did not give up the game, getting a game-winning bucket from Sierra Fent with 27.4 seconds remaining.
"That's something we haven't done in the last few years," said Panthers coach Lynn Hughes. "It could have been easy to fold, especially after (Michayla) Barga hit that three-pointer. (with 44 seconds left to tie the game), but they didn't. I'm proud of the kids in believing in themselves and stepping up and getting the W."
Midway through the third quarter, it looked like Parkway would cruise to the win. Cami Hellwarth literally could not miss in the quarter, making all five of her shots as Parkway turned a three-point halftime lead into a 38-23 lead with 2:40 left in the quarter on a Hellwarth three-pointer.
"We came out in the third quarter and told the girls we wanted to be up 10 by the end of the quarter," said Hughes. "Kids played a great 3/4 of the quarter. Cami stepped up and got some fast break points. After that. I'm not sure what happened."
Bradford, which entered the game with a solid 12-3 record, began to cut away after getting down 15, primarily via the foul line as Parkway began to foul as Hellwarth picked up her third personal foul and both Fent and Raegen Bransteter picked up their fourth fouls early in the fourth quarter.
Parkway was up 49-39 with 3:46 to go in the game, but rather than slow it down, they continued to push the ball up and fire off quick shots, allowing Bradford to inch closer and closer.
"Our kids haven't (often) been in a situation where we've had a lead," said Hughes. "That's something we continue to work on. I think we're getting better, but that's something we need to pound into the kids' heads."
A pair of Brooke Brower free throws made it 49-45 with 2:07 left, with a Barga free throw with 1:19 left cutting it to three. Parkway turned the ball over on the ensuing possession, allowing Barga to nail a three-pointer from the top of the key with 44 seconds left to make it 49-all.
After a timeout, Parkway worked the ball into the paint to Fent. The senior got the ball to drop in while getting fouled to make it 51-49, but missed the free throw as Bower rebounded. The Railroaders tried to get the ball inside, but Lydia Heindel managed to strip the ball away, with Hellwarth snagging the loose ball and getting fouled with 11.1 seconds left. Hellwarth missed the front end of the one-and-bonus as Brower rebounded. After a timeout, Barga tried a game-winning three, but missed as Fent rebounded and was fouled. This time, Fent made one of two to make it a three-point game. Bradford's tried a long pass down the court, but the ball sailed out of bounds, giving Parkway the win.
"You could see in their eyes they knew they could do it," said Hughes. "They did exactly what we said: run motion and get it in to Sierra. She got the ball low and did a nice job dribbling to the block and getting the (basket)."
Hellwarth led the Panthers with 17 points on eight straight baskets. Fent added 13 and pulled down 11 rebounds. Bransteter scored 10.
Barga scored 15 and pulled down 11 boards to lead Bradford. Brower was 8-of-10 from the foul line in the second half en route to a 14-point night.
Parkway returns to MAC action on Thursday, hosting Minster.
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