By Randy Arrington
SHENANDOAH, Feb. 25 — Not only did the Page County Panthers “survive and advance” on their home court Tuesday night in the first round of the Region 2B tournament, they did so in dramatic fashion.
Recording their highest point total of the season, the Panthers defeated the visiting Storm of Staunton, 96-86, to advance to the region semifinals on Friday.
Senior Chase Combs once again led the Panthers with a season-high 39 points. Combs hit seven shots from beyond the arc — five of those in the second quarter.
Page fell behind early, 25-16, at the end of the first quarter, but they outpaced the visitors in each of the next three periods.
“We started out in man-to-man [defense] and then went to a zone… they kept driving at the man-to-man and Chase got in foul trouble… we knew we needed to change things up in the second and third quarter,” PCHS head coach Russ Rodriguez said after Tuesday night’s win.
“We also wanted to start pushing the ball up the floor more so their legs would start to go on those three-pointers,” he added.
Staunton hit nine three-pointers on the night, with three in the first, three in the second and three in the fourth.
The Storm took a narrow, 46-43, lead into the locker room after the Panthers made a 27-21 push in the second quarter.
Page County took their first lead of the game, 55-54, at the 5:12 mark in the third, when senior Trevor Williams drove the lane for a tough bucket. The Panthers held a narrow two-point lead heading into the final frame, 66-64.
A 9-2 run to open the fourth gave Page a wider margin as they put up 30 points in the fourth to put the game away.
Sophomore Dylan Hensley scored 15 points for the Panthers, while fellow sophomore Ricky Campbell had 12 and Williams added 10.
Staunton was led by senior Javon Battle with 30 points. Seniors Elijah Simms and Ethan Painter scored 19 and 16 points, respectively.
Coach Rodriguez said the volume and support from fans at recent playoff games has been inspiring.
“Our county loves a winner,” he said. “They have shown us great support, and it’s really great for the kids to play in front of this type of atmosphere.”
Page moves to 17-10 on the season and will head to East Rock on Friday to face the top-seeded Eagles for the fourth time this season. Last Friday night, East Rock won the Bull Run District tournament championship on their home court, 96-64, against visiting Page.
The Bull Run Player of the Year, sophomore Tyler Nickel, led East Rock with 36 points in that game, including 23 in the first half.
The winner of the semifinal game will advance to the Region 2B championship on Saturday at Spotswood. The boys championship game will follow the girls regional championship at the same site. The girls will tip-off at 6 p.m. with the boys following about 7:30 p.m.