PANA — By doing just enough down the stretch, the Vandalia Vandals survived and escaped with a 66-63 win at Pana on Tuesday night.
A wild finish ended with Pana's Adam Miller missing a potential game-tying jumper, as the Vandals made enough foul shots late to secure a rivalry victory.
"That was crazy," Vandalia Coach Brian Buscher said of the game. "The kids played through it, though. I've been coaching since 1999, and it always seems to be crazy when we come to Pana."
Buscher said his squad got it done in crunch time.
"We could have hit more free throws," Buscher noted. "The kids played hard, and got enough rebounds. And we came out on top."
Vandalia improves to 6-17 with the win. Pana fell to 9-14.
Senior guard Collin Nestleroad led the Vandals with 25 points. Nestleroad had 16 points in the first half.
Drake Dokey and Richie Well added 10 points apiece, while Austin Durbin had nine points.
Vandalia had an 18-point lead in the first half, but the game was up for grabs in the fourth quarter.
The contest was tied at 55 with seven minutes to play when the Vandals got a huge three-pointer from Durbin and an old-fashioned three-point play by Nestleroad.
Pana scored twice inside, and it was 61-59 in favor of the Vandals.
Kelly Jones made one of two foul shots to extend the lead, and then both teams traded turnovers. Miller scored inside for the Panthers, and the hosts were only down one with a minute to play.
Dokey hit one of two at the charity stripe to make it 63-61 with 55 seconds to play.
Nestleroad then came up with a huge steal on the other end.
The Vandals then ran more than 20 seconds off the clock before the Panthers fouled. Durbin hit one of two free throws for a 64-61 lead with 23 seconds left.
Pana's Wade McMillen scored in the lane to make it 64-63 with 16 seconds on the clock.
The Vandals were nearly called for a five-second call after the hoop, but Buscher got a timeout first. Durbin then drew a foul, and he once again made one of two at the line, keeping the visitors in front by two, 65-63.
On the ensuing possession, Pana's McMillen missed a short jumper, but Nick Copley flew in, grabbed the offensive rebound and scored. But the whistle blew, and the Panthers were called for an over-the-back foul on the play, wiping out the score.
Buscher admitted he was surprised his team got the call in that situation.
"Nothing against anybody, but when you come to Pana you don't expect to get calls," Buscher said. "I'm not one to complain, but I thought a couple calls went against us earlier. So I was surprised by the call on the boxout."
Well then made one of two foul shots to give the Vandals a 66-63 lead with five seconds showing on the clock.
Pana's Miller threw up a desperation three-pointer at the buzzer, but it was off the mark, and the Vandals survived and escaped.
"Most people think Greenville's our big rival in everything, and they are," Buscher said. "But to me, from playing at Vandalia, Pana was the team to beat. That's where the rivalry always was. These wins probably feel better to me than the kids."
Buscher noted his team may have let this one slip away earlier in the season.
"Even though we blew a lead, we found a way to right the ship," he said. "We handled a tough situation at the end. In a handful of games this year, we went the other way. So hopefully that shows that these kids are growing."
The Vandals got off to a stellar start, racing out to an 11-2 lead. Pana made a small run late in the first period, and Vandalia was up, 23-12.
The Vandals scored the first seven points of the second quarter to take an 18-point lead, 30-12. Pana was able to knock down some jumpers, and by the break, Vandalia's lead had shrunk to 36-28, as the Panthers finished the half on a 16-6 run.
Pana pulled close right away in the third period, and the game was tight the rest of the way. In fact, the Panthers put together a 12-0 in the third period to take a 53-52 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Copley scored 14 points to lead Pana and Miller had 12.
Vandalia will be back in action on Friday night at home against Staunton.
Pana cruised in the JV boys game, 74-44.
Vandalia 66, Pana 63
VA 23 13 16 14 — 66
PA 12 16 25 10 — 63
Vandalia: Richie Well 3 3-6 10, Collin Nestleroad 10 4-5 25, Kain DuFaux 1 0-0 2, Kelly Jones 1 2-4 4, Nathan Casey 2 0-0 5, Austin Durbin 3 2-5 9, Drake Dokey 4 1-3 10, Robby Lott 0 0-0 0. Totals 19 (5) 12-23 66. Three-pointers: Well, Durbin, Nestleroad, Casey, Dokey.
Pana: Copley 5 3-5 14, Miller 5 0-0 12, McMillen 5 0-0 10, Kircher 2 1-2 5, Lynch 2 0-2 4, DeWerff 2 1-3 5, Zahradka 4 0-0 10, Stauder 1 0-0 3. Totals 20 (6) 5-12 63. Three-pointers: Miller 2, Copley, Zahradka, Stauder.