Stout defense launches Panthers back to .500, sends WCV reeling

BOYS’ BASKETBALL

The talent gap was as wide as you may ever see on a basketball court Jan. 4.

The Panorama boys’ catapulted their selves back onto the winning track, holding the West Central Valley offense below 15 points en route to a convincing 89-11 victory.

The Panthers came away with a staggering 29 steals while converting on 65 percent of their shots, aided by frequent fast-break opportunities.

PHS achieved several season-high marks, including most points and most field goals made as Gracen Welberg led the way with a season-best 23 points on 11-of-15 shooting. The senior swiped five steals while dishing out four assists.

Sophomore Zach Rizzuti continued his recent hot play, missing just one shot while tallying 19 points (eight-of-nine), securing four steals of his own.

The Panthers blitzed their way to a 35-point opening quarter, gaining a 29-point advantage. The defense locked in over the final three frames, allowing just five points, including WCV’s scoreless fourth quarter in which Panorama put up 22 points.

The Panthers led 56-9 at the break and had little trouble from there.

Freshman Jared Wasson scored 13 points to give PHS three scorers in double figures.

The win moved PHS to 5-5 on the year, pulling them even in WCAC play at 4-4. West Central Valley dropped to 1-9 overall, still in search of their first league win. The Wildcats snapped a 16-game losing streak back on December 20 with a 57-52 win over Southeast Warren.

Panorama’s 78-point victory was just 24 hours after their narrow, 46-42 loss to IKM-Manning Jan. 3.

The Panthers lurched out to a 14-point halftime lead thanks to a 21-point second quarter but saw it slowly dwindle as the Wolves clawed back thanks to a torrid second half. IKM-Manning held Panorama to just four third quarter points, pulling all the way even thanks to an 18-point outburst.

A back-and-forth final quarter saw the Wolves prevail, 14-10 for the eventual victory.

Panorama shot just 17-of-48 from the field including a dismal four-of-17 from beyond the three-point line. Welberg was the leading scorer yet again, pouring in 22 points while hauling in five steals.

Kolby Shackleford chipped in 12 points while Rizzuti added eight points.

Welberg is now third in the conference with 31 steals while Shackleford is averaging a team-leading 13.6 points per game.

The Panthers are back in action Friday as they take on Des Moines Christian (7-3, 5-2) in Urbandale. The Lions are led by Curran Ingram (15 ppg). PHS returns home Tuesday to host Madrid (8-2, 6-2) and dynamic point guard Braden Gibbons (22 ppg, 9.6 apg).