The Hershey Lady Panthers (14-3) and ranked No. 5 in Class C2, hosted Class B No. 8 state-ranked Sidney (12-5) at Hershey High School on Saturday. The Lady Panthers came into the contest on a roll, winning their last six games, including an SPVA championship just a week ago. On the other hand, Sidney entered the game having lost on Friday evening to C1 No. 2-ranked Chadron by 14 points — their second loss to the Lady Cardinals this season.
The back-to-back games away from home might have been a little much for the Lady Red Raiders, as Hershey turned up the pressure in the second half, coming back from a 19-10 halftime deficit to win 45-27.
Trailing by nine coming out of the locker room at half, the Lady Panthers upped the defensive pressure resulting in a coach’s dream to begin the second half. Hershey outscored Sidney 15-2 in the first five minutes to lead 28-21.
“Sometimes we’re really good in our press, but then they break it, and sometimes we just sit back in our half court,” said Hershey coach Jeremy Thomas. “I was happy. We were getting steals and deflections and especially big rebounds at the right time.
“I think they only had about four [shot] attempts in the second half so it was key. Even if they did break our press, our half court defense was getting steals as well.”
Maddie Seamann hit one of two free throws and Maegan Hiatt hit a 2 from 14 feet to begin the run. Daynlee Miller hit a runner after a Hershey steal and then Tayler Baker nailed a 3 from the left wing, again after a steal to give the Lady Panthers their first lead of the game at 21-19.
After Abbi Porter hit a 5-foot baseline shot to even the score for Sidney, Hershey went back to work. Brooke Frederick grabbed a rebound and put it back, Miller took a steal in for 2, was fouled and added the free throw and Hiatt hit a jumper from the free throw line.
“We talked about getting them early,” said Thomas. “I was happy with the shots we took in the first half, but one thing I said to the girls was, ‘we need to pick it up even more — go another level. They’re tired and I know we’re tired, but we need to pick it up.’
“It just carried it over and we got easy shots in transition off their steals and we capitalized on all their turnovers. We weren’t just capitalizing we were getting and-ones, a couple 3s there, and Maegan hitting that little step-back shot. They were huge for us.”
Hershey held Sidney to eight second-half points, five in the third quarter and three in the fourth. Sidney coach Tyler Shaw felt the Hershey [defensive] pressure got to his team a little bit in the second half.
“We didn’t respond to their runs very well in the first half,” Shaw said. “That second quarter they made a nice run at us but we were able to slow it down a little bit.
“In the second half our scores were few and far between. We weren’t getting good looks at the basket. We were rushing things — panicked a little bit. And on the road it’s a difficult place to play. Give them credit for playing harder in the second half.”
Three Lady Panthers reached double figures in scoring. Seamann led Hershey with 12 points and Miller and Hiatt each added 11.
Seamann scored all three Hershey points in the opening quarter and hit the first three baskets for the Lady Panthers in quarter two keeping her team within reach.
“We talked about going to Maddie inside,” Thomas said. “We ran a set for her coming out of the [second] quarter. She was just aggressive.
“Everybody missed some easy shots during the first quarter but they stayed with it. And besides that dagger 3 [Sidney] hit to lead 19-13 [at half] we were right there. Without that it would have even been closer than that in the first half.
“I was proud of how we got back into the game in that second quarter.”
Sidney held an 11-3 lead at the end of quarter one and Shaw felt his team was able to handle what Hershey was throwing at them.
“We did our game plan. We handled the ball well and we handled their defensive pressure in the first half,” Shaw said. “[Seamann] hit some big baskets early on and kept them close. The second half it was a different story.”
Thomas commented his team needed to stop doing the 2-point and 3-point first quarter stuff.
“Three points is tough, but I was happy,” Thomas said. “We missed some wide open layups. I thought we gave them too many easy looks early.
“That was a credit to them getting easy shots. They beat us off the dribble too much and had wide-open shots. We just didn’t knock down ours and that hurt us.
“For us to keep excelling in the future, we maybe need to get away from those 3-point quarters. I was happy they stayed the course.”
Thomas said his girls trust each other and know each others strengths.
“That’s something we utilized at the end,” the coach said. “The strength of our defense was really key, but once we got into our half court offense we utilized everybody.
“They trusted each other and played as a team, ran the offense and ran the sets. We were able to get really good looks. That was huge.”
Sarah Mahr and Sarah Krueger led Sidney with seven points each.
Hershey (14-3)..................................3 10 20 12 — 45
Sidney (12-5)..............................11 8 5 3 — 27
Hershey: (2 pt, 3 pt, ft, pts) Daynlee Miller 5, 0, 1/1, 11; Brooke Frederick 2, 0, 0/0, 4; Maegan Hiatt 5, 0, 1/2, 11; Tayler Baker 0, 1, 0/0, 3; Maddie Seamann 5, 0, 2/4, 12; Taylor Mustion 0, 0, 2/2, 2; Jenna Young 1, 0, 0/0, 2.
Sidney: Abbi Porter 1, 0, ½, 3; Sarah Mahr 2, 0, 3/4, 7; Sarah Krueger 1, 1, 2/2, 7; Karissa Segelke 2, 0, ½, 5; Katelin Cole 0, 1, 0/0, 3; Morgan Linneman 0, 0, 1/2, 1; Jeni Heeren 0, 0, 1/2, 1.