Blankenbeckley free throw give Panthers second win of season

SALINA — Nikki Blankenbeckley made one, Cara Donley finally missed one, and the Concordia Panthers slipped past the Sacred Heart Knights 46-45 in the consolation bracket of the Salina Invitational Tournament Wednesday afternoon at the Bicentennial Center.
Sacred Heart had wiped out a 10-point Concordia lead and tied the game at 45-45 on a short bank shot by Donley with 45 seconds to play in the game.
Following a Concordia turnover, Donley missed a shot that would have given the Knights the lead.
The Panthers came away with the ball, Blankenbeckley was fouled with 4.9 seconds on the clock.
Blankenbeckley, a 36 percent free throw shooter going into the game, missed the first of two attempts. She made the second to give Concordia the 46-45 advantage.
Sacred Heart got the ball to Donley, a 5-5 freshman who scored 20 points in the game, but her shot from just inside the three-point line didn’t fall and the Panthers moved on to the fifth-place game.
“I think we were all glad to hear that buzzer sound,” Concordia coach Michael Wahlmeier said, “I told them that I felt they were playing not to lose, and not playing to win. We needed to take care of the ball, but we are not to a place yet where we can burn clock.”
Concordia, which has won two of its last three games after going 0-7 to open the season, will play North Central Kansas League rival Clay Center in the fifth-place game at 2 p.m. Saturday.
Clay Center was a 51-19 winner over Smoky Valley, and already owns a win over the Panthers this season.
In the semifinals, Salina County defeated Abilene 63-48, and Salina Central downed Andover, 44-37.
Concordia fell behind 6-2 in the first 2:30 of the game, but went on a 9-2 run, that Tristen Leiszler capped off with a three-point shot, to go up 11-8.
Leiszler was 5 of 12 from three-point range in scoring 17 points for the Panthers. She also had five rebounds and four assists.
Megan James, who finished with 10 points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals, scored the first two points of the second quarter, and Concordia led 13-8.
Tracie Thibault knocked down a pair of threes as Sacred Heart battled back to tie the game at 18-18 late in the first half.
Thibault scored 17 points in the game.
A basket by James gave Concordia a 20-18 advantage at halftime.
Leiszler hit a three, and James made a layup in the first 1:46 of the second half to extend the Panthers’ lead to 25-18.
It was a 27-22 game when a jumper by Blankenbeckley and a layup by Leiszler put Concordia on top 31-22.
Donley scored for the Knights, but the Panthers answered with a three by Leiszler to make it a 34-24 game.
Led by Donley’s five points, Sacred Heart cut the deficit in half, 36-31, heading into the final eight minutes of play.
“She is a good player. She really drives hard to the basket. She picks her spots well,” Wahlmeier said of Donley.
A three by Thibault pulled Sacred Heart to within two points, 36-34, early in the final period.
Molly Adams grabbed an offensive rebound and scored for Concordia.
Donley made one of two free throws, and then the Panthers got baskets by Adams and Jennifer Boley and a three by Leiszler to again build a 10-point lead at 45-35 with under five minutes to play.
“We hit Jennifer inside. Molly started making some shots. Some other people stepped up. Katie (Lambert) had six points,” Wahlmeier said, “That is what it takes. Not everybody is going to be on every game so you have to find out who is playing well and get them the ball.”
Sacred Heart wouldn’t go away.
Thibault made four free throws in a span of 15 seconds, Donley followed up a missed shot and Thibault scored on a drive to get the Knights within two points, 45-43.
Sacred Heart forced a Concordia turnover, and Donley scored again to tie the game.
Blankenbeckley was able to step to the line and knock down the free throw that gave Concordia the win.

CONCORDIA (46)
K. Lambert 3-0-3 6, M. Lambert 1-0-2 2, Adams 2-2-4 6, Blankenbeckley 1-1-1 3, Boley 1-0-1 2, Leiszler 6-0-1 17, James 5-0-1 10. Totals: 19-3-13 46.
SACRED HEART (45)
Stein 1-0-2 2, Donatell 0-0-1 0, Donley 8-4-0 20, Doll 1-0-2 2, Rapp 2-0-5 4, Thibault 5-4-0 17. Totals: 17-8-10 45.

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