As soon as the draw was made for this Scottish cup tie Panthers knew they were in for a tough game having been eliminated by Pleasance in the same round of the competition last season, by a deficit of 17 points.
With only 4 of their Grampian named 7 league team available for selection, the remainder of the travelling Panthers team was made up for the Pumas squad. The 1020 tip in the capital meant an early start for the Panthers.
Despite an on time arrival and good warm up the hosts took an early lead and nothing seemed to be dropping for the starters on court for the Panthers. Although trailing in the early exchanges, the Panthers soon rallied and the hosts ended the quarter 2 points up, 15-13.
The second quarter started well for the Panthers and some good rotation of the ball in offence allowed better looks at the basket but the usual final touch seemed to be eluding regular scorers. Some good pressure defence saw a number of turnovers by Pleasance and saw the panthers finish the half up 28-29.
The third quarter started well for the Panthers and shots started dropping when they hadn’t in the first and they started to build a lead over Pleasance. However a number of rushed offences with poor shot selection allowed Pleasance back in the game and some quick baskets by the Pleasance captain saw the end of the third tied 46-46.
Urged to give nothing other than a perfect performance in the final quarter and atone for last seasons defeat the Panthers came out strong, with Izzy Sisayan scoring all of his 5 points in the final quarter. All of the drama though was to be held for the final 2 minutes as neither team were able to kill the other off. With one minute left on the clock Panthers came up the floor, ran the clock down before Nick Ruta drove to the basket and pulled up for a short jumper and a 1 point lead. The following Pleasance possession resulted in another defensive rebound and transition down the court where the home team started to intentionally foul to stop any baskets. The resulting inbound ball ended in Shaun Heers hands and his strong drive to the basket and Pleasance foul put him to the free throw line, to put the game almost out of reach of the home team. Having made both free throws and giving the Panthers a 3 point lead, the home team called a time out with 9.8 seconds remaining on the game clock. The instruction was clear, deny the inbound ball and don’t allow any 3 point attempts to tie the game. The defence did its job stopping any attempts from outside the arc and Pleasance forced a short jumper that was missed. Panthers held on to the ball and ran the clock down, overcoming their victors from the last encounter.
Every single Panthers player gave their all for the cause and in doing so may have lost the services of a stalwart of the club, Izzy Sisayan, who injured his shoulder challenging for a loose ball. A special mention has to go to Craig White who made his debut for the club and played some great aggressive defence and added a 3 pointer to the tally. Mike Diamond & Scott Murray gave their all on court, selflessly allowing their teammates to capitalise on theor hard work.
Final Score: Pleasance 56 – Panthers 59
Nick Ruta – 22
Shaun Heer – 19
Glen Honeyman – 8
Panthers now face current Scottish Cup holders City of Edinburgh in the next round in another away day to ‘auld reekie’ at the end of the month.