Effingham Daily News
Jillian Deters was a force for Neoga Monday against Pana, pouring in 26 points against the Panthers' post defense.
Those 26 would have been in vain if it wasn't for the Lady Indian defense down the stretch.
Trailing 46-44 with less than a minute to go, the defense, keyed by guards Madison Butler and EC Thies, forced turnovers on four straight possessions as Neoga took down Pana 49-46.
"Our defense was tremendous," said Neoga coach Kim Romack. "The kids were able to do stuff on the fly, our defense was amazing, and down the stretch in the fourth quarter, everyone stepped up."
After a turnover with 37 seconds left, Deters stepped to the line after being fouled during a low post double team for a one-and-one. She drilled them both to tie the game with 25 left to play.
Thies stole the ball nearly immediately upon the Pana inbounds pass, was fouled and made one free throw to put Neoga back up.
The tight Indian defense forced Pana to step out of bounds on its next possession. Thies was fouled again, and hit both free throws to make it a three-point game.
Pana got the ball with 6.2 seconds left, but with three fouls to give, Deters committed a foul with 4.9 seconds left to make Pana inbound it again.
There were Butler and Thies, forcing another turnover to ice the game.
"EC and Maddie had it, that was our gameplan at the end," Romack said. "We knew we had fouls to give, as soon as they were getting it in, we were fouling."
The Indians led most of the way, controlling the entire first half, except for a brief 22-second lead for Pana. Deters had 16 in the first half as Neoga led 24-22.
The game was tight for all of the second half, after Neoga led by eight midway through the third. Pana tied it with 3:35 left at 44-44 on two free throws by Sydney Lett, and she hit a jumper with 2:08 to play to put the Panthers up 46-44.
Deters was held in check more in the second half, but still was where the Indians looked whenever they needed a big basket, like on the possession with 25 seconds despite the double team from Pana.
"She was big in the post tonight, she was a beast down there," Romack said. "They didn't have anyone who could stop her. Our guards did a tremendous job of getting her the ball.
"Without them, she doesn't get the ball down there and doesn't have the chance to make those buckets."
Thies finished with 11 points and Butler added six for the Indians. Lexie Siegert had 18 points for Pana, while Lett and Breanna Schoonover each scored 10.
Neoga moves to 12-5 with the victory, despite a tough schedule with bigger schools like Pana, Sullivan and Central A&M featured early in the season.
"We do play a tough schedule," Romack said. "We want to set ourselves up to where we can compete in the postseason. It's been nice to know ... we've competed with every team we've played this year."
They'll have another tough test Thursday, when they host NTC tournament champion St. Anthony. The Lady Bulldogs bested Neoga for the tournament title back in November.
Pana 10 12 12 12 46
Neoga 16 8 12 13 49
Pana: Lett 10, Siegert 18, Vaughn 2, Schoonover 10, Holthaus 6
Neoga: Butler 6, Ott 4, Thies 11, Deters 26, Roy 2