Clarke finishes strong to steal Senior Night from Panthers

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Junior Canaan Pierce lines up to hit a three-pointer in the second quarter against Clarke.

By Randy Arrington

SHENANDOAH, Feb. 7 — With one final regular season game remaining at East Rock on Monday night, the Page County Panthers were hoping to head into that game with a chance to tie for the Bull Run District title. 

The Panthers, however, will remain firmly in the No. 2 slot in the district after a disappointing 64-58 loss to visiting Clarke County on Page’s Senior Night.

“I feel like we were playing well, but every break went to them,” PCHS head coach Russ Rodriguez said after the game. “You have to give them credit.”

Page jumped out to a six-point lead in the first quarter and held on to a five-point margin at the half. But Clarke put up 24 points in the final frame, while Page only scored four points in the final 4:20 of the game.

A key moment came with 2:24 remaining when a technical foul gave Clarke four free throws and possession of the ball. The visitors went 3-for-4 at the line and extended their lead to three en route to a six-point win.

The Panther Nation remained vocal about the game’s officiating throughout the night, especially in the nail-biting fourth quarter.

“You’re gonna get bad breaks, but I don’t believe in playing the victim card,” Coach Rodriguez said. “You gotta play through it.”

Page ran the floor most of the night, while Clarke slowed things down. When the Panthers’ shooting went cold late in the game, the strategy paid off for Clarke.

“We knew their game plan was to slow us down, which puts more pressure on every shot,” Rodriguez said. “We missed some shots, and then when they go down and hit three-pointers… that’s the great equalizer.”

Senior forward Chase Combs once again lead the Panthers with 20 points, followed by sophomore Ricky Campbell with 10 and senior Freddy Stidham with nine.

Clarke posted three players in double-digits with junior Ellis Nei leading the way with 23 points. Senior Colby Childs scored 14, while senior Volkan Ergen added 11.

After heading to East Rock on Monday night, the Panthers will host a first-round game in the Bull Run District tournament on Friday, Feb. 14. 

Page County (11-2, 14-7) still has the ability to make a deep run in the postseason, and Coach Rodriguez knows his senior-laden team is more talented than they showed against Clarke. He hopes his seven seniors will end the season on a better note.

“We’re capable of playing better,” Coach Rodriguez said. “We still haven’t played our best basketball yet.”

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