Panthers use strong finish to defeat Smoky Valley

SALINA – It wasn't how the Concordia Panthers started, but rather how they finished that propelled them to a 47-33 victory over Smoky Valley in the fifth-place game of the Salina Invitational Tournament Friday at the Bicentennial Center.
Concordia went the first 4:30 of the game without scoring, and fell behind Smoky Valley 5-0.
The Panthers chased down the Vikings, and took a 35-30 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Leading just 35-33 with just under six minutes to play, the Panthers scored the final 12 points of the game to pull away to the second win of the season over the Vikings.
Concordia, after suffering a loss to Salina South in the opening round, picked up consecutive wins in the tournament to finish fifth.
“One of our goals since I got here is to win two games in the Salina tournament. It would have been easy for them, after the first one, to hang their heads but they didn't and got it done,” Concordia coach Michael Wahlmeier said.
Salina Central rolled past Andover 68-44 in the championship game. Salina South beat Abilene 44-34 in the third-place game.
Smoky Valley's Hannah McBride scored the first five points in the fifth-place game, and Concordia was playing catchup.
The Panthers did not score in the game until Jordan Eshbaugh made two free throws with 3:30 to play in the fist quarter.
Concordia (8-4) was down 15-9 heading into the second quarter.
Three straight points by Megan James and a free throw by Maggie Lambert pulled the Panthers within two points, 15-13.
Smoky Valley (2-10) would stretch the lead to five points, 21-16.
Lambert scored inside, Tristan Leiszler connected on a three-point shot and Eshbaugh made a layup to give Concordia its first lead, 23-21.
A three-point basket by McBride as time expired in the first half gave Smoky Valley the lead back at 24-23.
There were four lead changes in the first five minutes of the second half.
Trailing 31-20, the Panthers got a steal and a layup by Leiszler, a basket by Jennifer Boley and two free throws by Leiszler to open up a 35-30 advantage.
Kelsie Anderson hit from 18 feet and then made one of two free throws to pull Smoky Valley within two points with just over six minutes to play in the game.
The Vikings would not score again.
“I think they were a little frustrated and we did a better job of rebounding and only allowing them one shot,” Wahlmeier said.
Leiszler scored on a drive and James tossed in six points in 1:15 seconds to extend Concordia's lead to 43-33.
“That was fun to see. We were using her (James) down in the post because we felt we had a mismatch there, and she did a good job of taking advantage of it,” Wahlmeier said.
A jumper by Eshbaugh and two free throws by Leiszler locked up the win for the Panthers.
Leiszler, who was named to the all-tournament team, led all scorers with 17 points. She was 5 of 14 from the field, including three of seven from three-point range, and four of four from the free throw line and pulled down seven rebounds.
James hit 5 of 12 field goal attempts and three of four free throws in scoring 13 points.
Eshbaugh finished with eight points and 10 rebounds.
McBride led Smoky Valley with 15 points.
Anderson scored nine for the Vikings.
Concordia will have a week off before playing a North Central Kansas League game at Abilene on Friday night.

SMOKY VALLEY (33)
McBride 6-3-4 13, E. Deterding 0-0-4 0, Coo 1-0-1 3, Hubele 1-0-1 2, Andeson 4-1-3 9, K. Deterding 0-0-1 0, Hattabaugh 1-0-2 2, Rose 0-2-0 2. Totals: 13-6-16 33.
CONCORDIA (47)
Lambert 2-1-2 5, Eshbaugh 3-2-3 8, Adams 1-0-3 2, Boley 1-0-0 2, Leiszler 4-4-0 17, James 5-4-1 13. Totals: 17-10-9 47.

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