By Randy Arrington
SHENANDOAH, Feb. 14 — It started like any other first round tournament game. The higher seed was up 21-11 after the first quarter.
But then things changed.
Stonewall Jackson outscored the home-standing Panthers 18-0 in the second quarter. Page went ice cold from the floor, and the Generals took advantage.
“It becomes contagious,” PCHS head coach Russ Rodriguez said of the shooting drought. “Each guy is thinking ‘I gotta hit this one’… It’s a real thing because everybody on the floor feels that pressure.”
The Panthers went into the locker room trailing 29-21 at the half.
Late in the third quarter things were looking bad for the home crowd. Page senior Freddy Stidham picked up his fourth foul, and the Panthers were trailing by 10.
But the senior class showed its resiliency as they clawed their way back from a double-digit deficit to take the lead 48-47 with 1:56 remaining in the game. The lead see-sawed back-and-forth a few times before the free throw shooting of Williams and sophomore Ricky Campbell helped extend the Panthers’ small lead.
A steal and break-away slam dunk by senior Chase Combs put an exclamation point on an amazing comeback victory to keep Page’s tournament hopes alive.
“Survive and advance — that is the key,” Coach Rodriguez said after the win Friday night. “That zone kept giving us a fit… it’s exactly what happened over there.”
The Panthers were led on the night by Combs with 20 points, while Campbell scored 14 and Williams added 13.
Stonewall Jackson was led by senior Michael Stout with 13.
“In the fourth quarter, we started to put more pressure on them,” Rodriguez continued. “We rotated in seven or eight guys and just kept going at them.”
The Page head coach noted that the year started out at 0-4 for the Panthers, and that learning to keep their cool when things are down, is exactly where the experience of this senior class pays off.
“I liked how these guys were picking each other up in the second half,” said Rodriguez. “They had the confidence that they could pull it out.”
On Tuesday, the Panthers will host Rappahannock, who upset Strasburg on the road Friday night.