Panthers finish one point, one game short of a trip to the girls state basketball tournament

Defeating the same team three times is a challenge — even more so with a state tournament appearance hanging in the balance.

That was the hurdle facing Panorama's girls basketball team in the February 20 Class 2-A regional final against Van Meter at Waukee High School. 

Panorama had won two previous meetings over Van Meter during the West Central Conference season. The sixth-ranked Panthers won 59-51 in overtime at Van Meter on January 23. They won 50-44 in overtime again four days later in Panora on January 27. 

This time, the sixth-ranked Panthers fell one point short in a 39-38 loss to the tenth-ranked Bulldogs. Van Meter (21-3) advanced to the state tournament for the first time since 2001. 

Panorama closed a shining season, which includes the conference championship, at 22-2. 

The Bulldogs were exactly who the Panthers thought they would play for state once the post-season pairings were released earlier this season. The two teams continued advancing toward each other until they met in the regional final for a third time. Head coach Dan Druivenga and the Panorama girls were hoping to have the same luck a third time around.

Panorama got out to a great start as Faith Powell and Bailey Beckman both splashed three pointers and the Panthers built a 9-2 lead in the first four minutes. Devyn Kemble, who scored a game-high 19 points, had six points in the opening frame, which ended with Panorama leading 15-9.  

Kemble added a pair of buckets in the second quarter and an inside score by sophomore Morgan Johnk later sent the Panthers to the halftime break with a 21-12 cushion. 

It took no time for the Bulldogs to start their fast-paced tempo out of the break, however. A 10-3 run in the third quarter closed the gap for Van Meter, who switched from a zone defense to man-to-man in the second half. Senior C.J. Jones hit a pair of three-pointers and a jumper to get things rolling for the Bulldogs.

Panorama led 32-29 early in the fourth quarter before senior Mackenzie Roberts hit a 3-pointer to knot the game at 32 with 5:28 left in the game. 

Roberts swished two foul line shots with 59.8 seconds to go that gave Van Meter a 37-35 lead, but Kemble coolly hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key moments later to keep the Panthers on top. 

With 14 seconds to go, Roberts then drove the lane and scored. Panorama got three good looks at the other end as Hope Wilderman, Bailey Beckman and Kemble all put up shots that fell just off the rim.

“We took some good shots at the end of the game, they just didn’t fall,” Druivenga said. “I am proud of how they handled the situation at the end of the game.” 

Druivenga said he thought offensive rebounds might have been the difference in the game.

“They got a couple of kick-out 3’s after an offensive rebound,” he said. 

Jones, who led Van Meter with 16 points, was 4 of 5 from behind the arc in the second half. The Bulldogs were 6 of 15 as a team from the three-point line. 

Not getting to the foul line might have been another key, Druivenga said. One of the top free throw shooting teams in the state at 73.3 percent (319 of 435), Panorama made 12 trips to the line Monday and made 9. 

“We needed to get to the foul line more,” Druivenga said. 

Panorama’s only other loss this season was in conference play, a 50-39 loss to Des Moines Christian in early January.

Despite coming up short of a state tournament bid, Druivenga, who recorded his 400th career win this season, said he’s quite confident in the talent that’s rising through the veins in the Panorama program. While Van Meter will take seven seniors to the state tournament next week, the Panthers will return their entire team next season.

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