Friday night at Panama high school was known as a “battle of the unbeatens.” The Panama Panthers (9-1, 4-1) took on an aggressive and tough Westfield Wolverines (9-0, 5-0) team. Both squads walked into the gym intending to keep their undefeated seasons alive.
The first quarter started off with Cameron Barmore and Gerrit Hinsdale helping their team get out to a nice early lead. Outside perimeter shooting helped Barmore knock down 12 points while Hinsdale put up eight; Panama ended the first up 22-11.
Westfield then mounted a comeback in the second quarter. With Panama leading 29-20, Wolverines’ Dylan Scriven hit two three-pointers to cut the lead down to three. Senior guards Michael Johnson and Nathan Culbreth helped Westfield close out the first half strong, outscoring their opponents 19-10 in the second quarter. Panama led 32-30 going into the break.
Andrew Baribeau hit a mid-range jumper in the third to give Westfield the first lead of the game and go up 39-38. Barmore and the Panthers responded late in the quarter, retaking the lead by putting up eight consecutive points, ending the third up 46-45.
The final quarter saw Westfield hitting well from beyond the arc. The Panthers started off with the first four points to extend their lead to five before the Wolverines mounted a 9-0 run thanks to three treys, two from Culbreth and one from Michael Johnson.
With 29 seconds remaining, Panthers down 60-55, sophomore guard Cooper Brown hit a big three from the left corner to cut the lead down to two. Panama did get one more chance with Barmore heaving it from half-court; the shot hit the backboard and left side of the rim as the clock expired; Westfield ended up with the 60-58 victory.
The challenge for the Wolverines was to make sure Barmore didn’t go off and maintain him to their best of their abilities. Barmore was coming into the game averaging 31.8 ppg, which leads all scoring in Section VI. He ended up with a ninth double-double (26 points and 15 rebounds) of the season.
Westfield head coach Robert North came up with a game plan to contain Barmore and not let him take over late in the game. North explained that his team had to be ready for him.
“I thought early, we lost him a little bit in the zone, when we went to man, we did a better job of it and we made him earn his points,” he said. “He’s legit, he’s a good player. Culbreth did a really nice job when he switched to him.”
The Wolverines were forced to play a slightly different style against Panama. Their top shooters on the year were held to a combined nine points (Michael Johnson – 7, Ryan Jafarjian – 2). Andrew Baribeau led the charge in scoring last night, putting up 21 points; Dylan Scriven and Nathan Culbreth notched 16 and 13 respectively.
“We have five kids, actually six with my first kid off the bench, that can put 20 on you in any given night,” said North. “Tonight, it was Andrew, Dylan and Nathan in double figures. Michael and Ryan, those are guys that have been my leading scorers all year long, and then three other guys stepped up.”
One player that changed his play style a bit was Baribeau, who is mostly known for being a threat in the low post. Barmore contested his strengths, so he adjusted by using other positives in his game, one of them being his mid-range shooting.
“I know he’s a good shooter, but usually he can have his way on the low block,” North said. “Against Barmore, now you got a kid with the same size who jumps out of the gym, so Andrew stepped his game out. He can shoot it up to about 20, 21 feet, so I was pleased with Andrew.”
Now that this game is in the books, Westfield is now in first place in the CCAA II West and will have a chance next Tuesday night to get their tenth win of the season. They’ll be at home, taking on Brocton.
As for Panama, their next game will also be next Tuesday, squaring off against Frewsburg.
The Panthers and the Wolverines will meet each other again on Thursday, February 6th.
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