Upsets improve team’s prospects

Bryan Veginski
On the upswing: Lexi Grayer, a Washington senior, drives the baseline in second-half action Saturday against Limestone in Bartonville. The Lady Panthers upset their second straight opponent, 46-44, to move to 5-5 on the year.

Washington delivered a brilliant girls basketball performance Thursday.

The Lady Panthers used sturdy shooting and tenacity on the defensive end to thwart Central, 52-43 at Torry Gymnasium.

The Lions are one on the area’s better teams, but Washington never surrendered the lead after a Moriah Peterson three-pointer late in the first quarter.

Lady Panther Lexi Grayer scored all of her game-high 16 points in the first and third quarters.

“The first half was the best basketball we’ve played in the last few years,” WCHS head coach Randy Marchand said.

Washington was 13-of-24 from the field before intermission and led 34-22 as a handful of players contributed at least five points.

Grayer was 4-for-5 in the opening period for nine points.

She made a trey with 25 seconds left, then Peterson hit one from beyond the arc on a well-designed play easily ahead of the buzzer to give the home team a 17-16 edge.

“We all contributed offensively and defensively. It was a great win,” Grayer said. “Every possession counted in this game.”

The second quarter was a masterpiece for Washington.

Lindsey Boyer canned a trey to start the stanza before Taylor Lester tipped off a 12-0 Lady Panther spree with a bucket at the 5:37 mark.

Peterson had five points in the sequence and Boyer, Jennica Hipes and Dani Frye also added to the Washington point total.

Central crept within 39-34 with 2:56 remaining in the third quarter when Tera Green, its top scorer on the night with 11 points, sank a three.

On the next trip down the floor, Grayer answered with a triple of her own to stop a 12-5 Lion run.

Earlier in the period, Kiley Ruder displayed the Lady Panthers’ toughness by grabbing her fourth offensive rebound and drawing a foul.

“I’m real proud of these guys,” Marchand said. “We outscrapped them.”

A Boyer three with 4:01 to go in the final frame gave Washington a 52-41 bulge.

Later up by nine points, the Lady Panthers spread the floor and wound a couple minutes off the clock before Central finally fouled with 55.4 seconds left.

Boyer had 10 points, Lester nine, Peterson eight and Hipes seven.

“Everyone contributed; it was a total team effort,” said Marchand.

Washington limited Central’s outside-shooting dynamo, ShaVonn Watkins, to one field goal using a box-and-one defense.

The Lady Panthers left the gym hoping the positive result has carryover effect for the remainder of a tough stretch.

WCHS 46, Limestone 44

The Lady Panthers are really getting their season back on track.

Washington beat a highly-regarded area team for the second straight outing Saturday.

With a positive decision in Bartonville, the Lady Panthers inched up the Mid-Illini Conference standings.

Despite a significant disadvantage in height, Washington (5-5, 2-2) handed the Rockets their first loss of the season.

“We knew what we were up against,” Marchand said. “They were a lot bigger than us, so we had to be scrappy and put a lot of pressure on their guards.

“We made just enough plays to win the game.”

Grayer topped the Lady Panthers with 16 points after making three treys.

“She’s our go-to-player,” said Marchand of the senior. “We look for her to do a lot of our scoring and leadership.”

Peterson also was in double figures with 13 points.

Natecia Augusta led all players with 23 points. Another Limestone player who is at least 6-foot tall, Felicia Johnson, added 12.

No Washington player who appeared in the game is taller than 5-8.

“You’ve got to give our kids credit,” Marchand said, “(Limestone)’s 9-0.”

Hipes scored eight points for the Lady Panthers, who stayed on top after tying the Rockets, 17-17, in the fourth quarter.

Steve Daggs contributed to this story

Holiday hoops: The Lady Panthers are in Pool D in the Manual Holiday Tournament.

Washington faces Central (11:15 a.m.) again and Springfield Southeast (2:45 p.m.) on the first day, Dec. 28.

A matchup with the Pool A team (Moline/Pekin/Lincoln) with the same opening-day result will occur Dec. 29.

Moline, East St. Louis, Limestone and Central were selected as the top seeds. 

The 31st annual tournament wraps up Dec. 30.

The Lady Panthers are 15-13 since joining the Manual event in 2002.