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Panthers hang on to topple Pratt in home opener
spt mm Dakota Ellis 2Col.BW
Great Bends Dakota Ellis (21) hit a pair of critical 3-point baskets in the fourth quarter to lift the Panthers. - photo by Mack McClure Great Bend Tribune

At Great Bend

Great Bend 43, Pratt 40
PRATT (0-1)

     Skylar Dean 0 0-0 0, BJ Dean 3 1-2 8, Thomas Mayberry 0 0-0 0, Austin McClain 2 12 5, Dylan Besser 0 0-0 0, Matt Swank 7 3-6 19, Dustin Jungmann 1 0-0 2, Payson Maydew 3 0-0 6, Chase Hageman 0 0-0 0. Totals 16 5-10 40.

     Matt Marshall 0 0-0 0, Jace Bowman 6 2-2 14, Sam Hafner 1 0-0 3, Greg Hildebrand 0 0-0 0, Cameron Casey 1 2-3 4, Jeff Pike 2 0-0 5, Will Gray 1 1-2 3, Dakota Ellis 3 0-0 6, Roderick Frise 4 0-0 8, Nick Warren 0 0-0 0. Totals 17 5-7 43.
Pratt               7     8      9     16  —  40
GBHS           11   10     7     15  —  43

     Three-point goals —Great Bend 4 (Ellis 2, Hafner 1, Pike 1);  Pratt 3 (Swank 2, BJ Dean 1).

Down the stretch in the second of two cliffhangers Friday night, Great Bend High School boys’ basketball coach Chris Battin was beside himself.
The Panthers, who escaped with a 43-40 win over the Class 4A stubborn Pratt Greenbacks, had watched the GBHS girls have a late rally come up shy in the lid-lifter at the GBHS Fieldhouse.
In the nightcap, it was Pratt’s boys turn to try and pull a rabbit out of the hat.
After the Panthers’ Cameron Casey converted two free throws with 33 seconds left, Pratt’s Matt Swank scored off an inbounds play underneath the basket on the other end to carve Great Bend’s lead to 43-38.
Battin bristled after calling a timeout.
“You got to be kidding me!,” Battin yelled to his team as they huddled on the GBHS bench. “How do we not guard him?”
 Battin was referring to Pratt’s one-man gang, Matt Swank, the son of Greenbacks head coach David Swank, who single-handedly kept the Greenbacks in contention.
Matt Swank then made a steal and driving layup to slash the margin to 43-40 with 14 ticks on the game clock at the GBHS Fieldhouse.
Casey was fouled again, with seven seconds left, and he missed both free throws. With the clock melting, Swank dribbled near the top of the key, hesitated and then inadvertently had the basketball roll off his leg. Time ran out, and the Panthers escaped with the three-point win to improve to 3-1 on the season.
“I was mad,” Battin deadpanned. “I don’t know how you leave their best player open on an inbounds play. That’s kind of frustrating late in games, but it’s a credit to (Matt Swank) for getting 19 points against the defensive pressure we were putting on him.
“I was disappointed we didn’t handle the late-game situations better. We practice those things every day at the end of practice and (Friday night), it looked like we never practiced it.”
On night when the Panthers struggled once again putting the ball in the hole, junior guard Jace Bowman, struggling with his shot from beyond the arc, tried a different method.
Bowman, considered the Panthers’ top scoring threat, used dribble-drive pentration and then pulled up and hit jump shots and short-range buckets.
Bowman scored eight of his team-high 14 points after halftime to help stave off Pratt’s upset bid.
Meanwhile, senior guard Dakota Ellis stepped up with critical back-to-back 3-point hits, his second coming with 5:04 left in the fourth quarter to give the Panthers a 37-31 lead.
“He hit two big ones there at the end and shot them with confidence,” Battin said. “That’s what we’ve been telling our guys. You’ve got to shoot it with confidence or you’re going to have to pass it.”
Ellis’ trey also set the stage for the wild finish.
The Panthers also survived despite the fact that senior swingman Greg Hildebrand was in foul trouble throughout and failed to break the scoring column.
“There’s nights like that when you get into foul trouble,” Battin said of Hildebrand, his lone returning starter from last season.         
“Once you get that second or third one, you’ve got to really be smart and (Hildebrand) had a rough night tonight, but I expect him to rebound well and he’ll be fine.”
Battin lauded Pratt, which captured third place last season at the 4A state tournament at the Salina Bicentennial Center. The Greenbacks will only get better, plus they might also have junior point guard Micah Swank back “in early February” as he is coming off knee surgery in October. The younger Swank was an all-class, all-state selection last season as a sophomore.
The 5A Panthers have until Tuesday night to shore up their defense, an everyday staple in their game plan. They entertain 6A Manhattan at home. Tipoff is set for approximately 7:45, following the girls game with the Tribe at 6.