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Panthers dial in from long range to down Downers North

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By Mike Sandrolini

HILLSIDE | Proviso West boys basketball head coach Michael Ingram wants his Panthers to be a balanced inside-out team from a scoring perspective.  However, the Panthers were sizzling from the outside, particularly from three-point range, during their 79-59 West Suburban Silver victory over visiting Downers Grove North last Saturday.

In what was their best exhibition of shooting this season, the Panthers drained nine 3-pointers for the game, and went 21 of 34 from the field (close to 62 percent shooting).

“We’re taking our time and taking our shot selection, which we’ve worked on in the past,” said Ingram, whose team improved to 9-6 overall, 3-2 in the WSS. “Our shot selection in the past has not been very good, which has cost us a lot of games.  We worked on our shot selection and moving the ball to get a better shot.”

Junior Deveon Bryant, who led the Panthers with 21 points, had the hot hand during the first half, sinking three treys in the second quarter to lift West to a 31-19 halftime lead.  In the third quarter, junior guard Willante Williams took over where Bryant left off. Williams, who finished with 13 points, also drained three 3-pointers—including two straight treys, giving the Panthers a 42-23 advantage with 5:14 to go in the period.

“We throw senior Dontonio Ward in there and I think that’s a trio of good three-point shooters that we have on this team,” Ingram said. “And we have some good, younger guys on the team that are picking up their shooting as well. But we’re not trying to be an outside shooting team.”

The Panthers only have three seniors—the other two being Elijah Gipson, who totaled nine points and a team-high nine rebounds vs. Downers North, and Robert Hill. Hill, however, has been out of the lineup. 

“He’s had an incident where he’ll be out of circulation for a while,” Ingram said. 

West is a junior-dominated squad, and those juniors, Ingram pointed out, are starting to jell.  “We have a lot of young guys,” he said. “We have a lot of juniors. We don’t have a lot of senior leadership, so the juniors are starting to accept their role on the floor, on the bench or coming off the bench.  Our defense is finally starting to pick up, which has been very helpful.”

Downers North mounted a rally, outscoring the Panthers 12-4 towards the end of the third quarter and pulling to within 47-35. But the Panthers made sure a repeat of their Jan. 13 conference loss at Glenbard West—where they let a 39-28 slip away going into the final quarter—wouldn’t happen.

The Panthers went to the free-throw line often during the fourth quarter, making 24 of 37 in that period alone. But that’s around 65 percent, and Ingram wants the team’s free-throw shooting to improve. Davon Coleman (13 points, 5 assists) shot 12 fourth-quarter free throws, making eight.

“Actually our record reflects that,” Ingram said. “We’ve lost games we shouldn’t have because of that simple fact. In the end we need to make our free throws. If we do that, and watch our turnovers, we’re going to be a lot better team.”

West committed 23 turnovers vs. DGN.   The Panthers have two rugged WSS contests on tap this week—on the road at Oak Park-River Forest in a rare Thursday night game, and Hinsdale Central on Saturday. Hinsdale Central, undefeated in WSS play, handed OPRF its first conference loss last Saturday.

“We’re coming off some losses that we shouldn’t have had, especially at Glenbard (West),” Ingram said.

“That was a weird experience all around. But we’re learning not to make those mistakes and close the game out, and if we do that I think we’ll be good in our conference. We’re always trying to win conference.  Right now they’re starting to grow together as a unit and trust each other, and that’s the only way you’re going to win championships. If you don’t trust each other and have unity, you’re not going to win. One of things at this school that we’re trying to build is unity from the coaching staff, to the administration, to the players and we’re working hard at it.  Besides (making) our free throws, our passing and our ball-handling skills and our movement without the ball. If we can get those things down we’ll be good.”

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