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Undermanned Panthers fall at home in second-round

PHS boys drop to conference elimination round


PEORIA — At full strength, the Peoria Panthers matched up fairly well with their Friday, Feb. 10 second-round Open state boys basketball tournament opponent.

Unfortunately for the Panthers, their game against Notre Dame Prep wasn’t played on paper. It was played in their home gym, and without starting sophomore point guard Chris Brookins.

His absence, combined with sluggish second and third quarters and the inability to stop Notre Dame Prep junior Anthony Batson Jr., led to the Panthers losing to the Saints, 69-53.

The loss broke a 12-game win streak for the Panthers (22-5), who hadn’t lost since Jan. 6, and dropped them into the elimination round of their conference tournament despite being seeded No. 3 in the state tournament.

No. 14-seed Notre Dame Prep (23-5) advanced to the Open quarterfinals, set for Saturday, Feb. 18, where they’ll face No. 11 Basha.

Peoria coach Pat Battillo said Brookins might have been able to play against Notre Dame Prep, as he’d done in the Panthers’ opening-round win over Catalina Foothills two nights before.

“I didn’t want to risk it,” Battillo said. “Chris anchors our defense. We need that going in, but we also didn’t make a lot of the right reads defensively. We allowed them to dictate the pace, even when our shots weren’t falling, and NDP is a very, very solid program. They capitalized on just about every single one of our mistakes tonight.”

The Panthers started on solid ground, scoring the game’s first six points and led 17-9 at one point. However, Notre Dame Prep began dribble-driving to the basket from all angles and got a couple of Panthers into early foul trouble.

Senior PHS starting center Calvin Windley ended up fouling out in the third quarter, with the Panthers then falling behind by double digits.

Even when Batson picked up his fourth foul for the Saints late in the third quarter, the Panthers were in no position to start pressing or trapping and taking chances.

PHS made only five of its 22 3-point attempts in the game and shot only 37% from the field overall.

The hosts also turned the ball over 20 times.
The 6-foot-4 Batson was unofficially 9-of-15 from the field for the Saints, driving to the basket against the undersized Panthers almost at will. He also was 6-of-11 from the foul line for a game-high 25 points.

Mitchell Jackson, another 6-foot-4 Notre Dame Prep junior, added 14 points, much of it on putbacks or busted plays.

Bryce Quinet had 10 points for the Saints, who were unofficially 5-of-12 from beyond the arc and were 25-for-38 from the field.

Andrew Camacho, the Panthers’ top scoring threat, was held mostly in check by a court-aware Notre Dame Prep defense, making only three of his 13 shots for 13 points. PHS sophomore Caden Bass had a team-high 20 points, but he and Camacho couldn’t do it all.

Notre Dame Prep coach Luke DallaRiva praised Battillo’s PHS program and Camacho, saying he respects the team that kept the Saints from winning a region title last year, beating Prep twice — once in overtime.

“They play the right way,” DallaRiva said of the Panthers. “The only way we were going to win was for our guys to play with hearts of gold, share the ball. Everyone kind of had a moment tonight.”

Friday, Feb. 10
Open Division Boys Basketball tournament, 2nd round
ND Prep 17 16 21 21 —69
Peoria 20 8 16 9—53
NOTRE DAME PREP (23-5): Bryce Quinet 10, Will Feagles 2, Brennan Peterson 4, Brody Postorino 9, Mitchell Perkins 14, Anthony Batson Jr. 25, Hayden Stebbins 3, Matt Delgado 2. Totals 25-38 FG 15-24 FT 69.
PEORIA (24-4): Saieed Hasan 1, Desmone Brooks-Conley 3, Calvin Windley 7, Elijah Ward 9, Andrew Camacho 13, Caden Bass 20. Totals 18-29 FG 11-19 FT 53.
3-pt. shooting: NDP 5-13 (Postorino 3-3); P 5-19 (Bass 2-5). Team fouls: NDP 16, P 20. Tech: None. Fouled out: P, Windley.We’d like to invite our readers to submit their civil comments, pro or con, on this issue. Email AZOpinions@iniusa.org.