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By Mike Sandrolini
ELMHURST | Last Saturday’s 47-39 victory at York put Proviso West’s girls basketball team in the driver’s seat as far as winning this year’s West Suburban Conference Silver Division basketball title. With the victory, the Lady Panthers own a 7-1 record in conference play. They avenged their only league loss of the season (to Glenbard West) by beating the Hilltoppers 47-40 on Jan. 7.
The Panthers (13-5 overall) have four Silver games remaining—at Downers North this Saturday, at Oak Park-River Forest on Jan. 27, and hosting Hinsdale Central Jan. 28. Lyons Township then visits Proviso West for Senior Night on Tuesday, Jan. 31. If the two teams’ last meeting is any indication, the conference finale will be one that bears watching. West and LT went three overtimes on Jan. 6 before the Panthers prevailed 67-58.
“We’re in good shape right now, but the conference season isn’t over,” said Panthers head coach Marques Hatch.
We’re taking it one game at a time and not overlooking anybody because in our conference anybody can be beat anyone. We just want to make sure we stay focused on one game at a time and eventually we’ll achieve our goal.” If the Panthers capture the WSS crown, it would be their first since sharing the title with York in 2013.
“Coming down the stretch, with conference championships and things like that, we just want to continue to get better,” Hatch said.
On Monday, the Panthers faced Chicago Resurrection at the MLK Dream Classic held at Malcolm X College. In addition, West has some rugged nonconference games awaiting them vs. St. Joseph (Jan. 23) and Whitney Young (Jan. 25). Then there’s the Panthers’ annual District 209 showdown at Proviso East on Saturday, Feb. 4.
“Proviso East is coming up as well as St. Joseph,” Hatch said.
“So we have two rival neighborhood games where all the girls know each other and grew up playing with each other and against each other so it should be some good, hard basketball. We don’t want to look too far ahead on our schedule. I’m a Proviso West alum, so anytime you hear the words Proviso East, it gets you up and ready to play. I expect us to be ready to play, but it’s further down the road. Right now we’re going to focus on who’s next.”
The Panthers held a commanding 14-3 lead over York at the end of the first quarter of last Saturday’s matchup, but they had to hold off a fourth-quarter rally by the Dukes to secure the win. The Dukes pulled to within five points of the Panthers (41-36) after a 7-0 run. DeAvionne Carpenter’s layup with around a minute to go, along with two free throws each from Mariah Reed and Tanesha Walker, finally put the game away.
“We kind of went into our fourth-quarter offense and got a little tentative, made some bad decisions with passes, and we allowed York to get a couple of steals and get back into the game,” Hatch said. “DeAvionne got a big basket when we really needed it, and this has been going on all season. Someone steps up; we have seven seniors and the juniors back them up.”
Walker led the Panthers with 12 points and seven rebounds, Mariah Henry added 10 points and five assists, while Carpenter and Miya Thomas each had six points. Carpenter also accumulated five assists and two steals, and Kayla Parham grabbed six rebounds. Balanced scoring has one of the Panthers’ strengths throughout the season.
“The second time around through conference, the coaches in the conference are very good and they’re making adjustments to what we like to do,” Hatch said. “So they’re taking away our first and second option. The thing about our team this year is we have balanced scoring all over the place so if you take one or two away, we have one, two or three (players) to go to.” Defense also is another Panther strong suit.
“We like to switch up our defenses a little bit,” Hatch said.
“We have to play to our strengths and (one of) our strengths is our speed, so we like to put a lot of pressure on the teams to speed them up and make them do a lot of things they’re not accustomed to doing. We’re playing good,” he added. “(We’re playing) quarters at a time, and our ultimate goal is to play a complete game, four quarters of smart basketball so that’s what we’re working to. I think the way we’re going, we’ll eventually get there. Ball control, free throws, layups, playing together and playing smart. If we do those things, we’ll be fine.”