The Saxons' Braden Vertalka attacks the basket during the second half of his team's I-8 loss to visiting Pennfield Tuesday at Hastings High School. (Photo by Brett Bremer)
The Saxons are still shooting for their first victory in 2020.
The Pennfield varsity basketball team dropped the Hastings boys to 0-5 since the calendar flipped, and 1-5 overall this season in the Interstate-8 Athletic Conference with a 68-42 win Tuesday.
The Panthers combined pressure defense with great ball-movement and shooting on the other end.
“They are playing very well. They have a lot of returning guys that know what they are trying to accomplish on offense, and that was not a very good performance from us,” Hastings head coach Rich Long said.
“They have very nice ball movement. They shoot the ball very well,” Long added. “(Luke) Davis and (Ryne) Petersen. They shoot, they can drive, and they like to drive over the top. Most teams don't help very well over the top. They're purposeful on it, and when they get there they know their outs for shooters if you help or if you don't help then they can finish their drive.”
Petersen had a team-high 19 points for the Panthers. Aiden Burns, a sophomore guard, finished with 14 points for Pennfield. Davis had eight points, as did teammate Shawn Gardner.
It is the second consecutive lop-sided loss in the I-8 for the Saxons who were bested 59-36 at Jackson Northwest last Friday.
Pennfield was the first team in five games to regularly play man-to-man against the Saxons. The Saxons struggled to find a rhythm offensively, regardless of the bit of pressure applied by the Panthers.
Hastings got 11 points from Evan Eastman in the loss. Carter Hewitt added seven points and Elijah Smith, Mitchell Eldred and Kirby Beck had five points apiece.
“We didn't move the ball very well. We got impatient and attacked out of frustration,” Long said, rather than attacking in a controlled way like the Pennfield guards who recognized their options with each drive.
Pennfield moves to 7-2 overall this season with the win. Pennfield is currently 4-2 in the I-8, tied for second in the conference with Coldwater and Marshall. Parma Western leads the league at 5-1 in conference play.
The I-8 doesn’t let up. The Saxons will be back on their home court Friday to take on a talented Marshall team.
“Our talk after the (Pennfield) game was to get together, come together as a team, lets keep building, lets not give up and get back on track. We have been very close in a lot of games. The last two have gotten away from us,” Long said.
The Saxons will also be at home Jan. 31 to take on Coldwater. A Tuesday off in a stretch of four consecutive home games isn't such a bad thing for the Saxons right now. Heading into the Pennfield match-up the Saxons four previous ballgames had all been on the road, a trip to Ionia followed by the contest with Harper Creek at Little Caeser's Arena in Detroit and then two trips to Jackson last week.
Hastings is now 1-7 overall this season.