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Cold Panthers fall to Morral Ridgedale

ATHENS – All season, the Chesapeake Panthers have been shooting rapid fire and plenty of bull’s-eyes.

Friday, March 16, 2001

ATHENS – All season, the Chesapeake Panthers have been shooting rapid fire and plenty of bull’s-eyes.

But Thursday night it was if those same guns that got them to the O.K. Corral were filled with blanks. The Panthers were a subpar 22-of-54 from the field – many of those shots from point-blank range – as they lost 66-57 to the Morral Ridgedale Rockets in the Division III regional semifinals.

"The defense didn’t lose the game," Panthers coach Norm Persin said. "We got off to a bad start and then we got in foul trouble. We had to get out of our press the first half and go to a zone because we were in foul trouble."

Chesapeake starters Zeb Best and Josh Waugh each picked up two fouls with more than five minutes to go in the first quarter. Anthony Delimpo also got his second foul at the start of the second quarter but remained in the game.

Ridgedale (25-0) used the absence of Best and Waugh to open up a 14-5 lead. Delimpo got a layup and a 3-pointer by Bobby Barbour at the buzzer to get within 14-10.

But the Rockets took off again in the second quarter and built a 10-point lead on two occasions, the second on a follow-up shot by Justin Price with 4:32 left in the half.

The Panthers came clawing back and cut the deficit to 27-21 on a 12-footer by Aaron Gossett with seven seconds to play in the half.

Jeff Thiel hit four foul shots to begin the second half and extend Ridgedale’s lead to 31-21.

Chesapeake responded with a 5-0 run to make it 31-26. Chad Mattix steal at midcourt and layup put the Rockets up 33-26, but Best converted a 3-point play and it was 33-29 at the 5:14 mark.

Jon Price followed up a missed shot and Thiel scored five straight points and it was 40-29.

A 3-pointer by Derek Dibling gave Ridgedale its biggest lead at 48-35, but Barbour hit a 3-pointer with one second left thanks to a steal by Waugh and it was 48-38 heading into the fourth quarter.

"We missed two layups to start the second half, then they go up by 12 and we cut it to four and then we turn it over three straight times in the open court. We didn’t get a shot off," Persin said.

Best hit a 17-footer, Waugh made a 3-point play, and Best scored inside as the Panthers got within 48-45 with 5:18 left.

Thiel’s layup and a 3-pointer by Mike Richmond sandwiched around Best’s layup put Ridgedale ahead 53-47 with 4:28 left.

The Panthers trailed 59-55 with 1:02 left after layups by Waugh and Best. John Beard made two foul shots for the Rockets and Delimpo answered with a layup with 42 seconds left.

Mattix sank the second of two foul shots, but the Panthers missed two free throws with 27 seconds left and the score remained 62-57. Mattix was fouled with 20 seconds left and hit both shots, and a steal and layup by Thiel sealed the win with 11 seconds to play.

"I thought we’d come back when we made that run," said Best. "I thought we’d keep the momentum, but they made some big shots."

Ridgedale coach Jamey Collins didn’t make any adjustments down the stretch when the Panthers made their run.

"Our guys are used to playing this way. We just came up with the big play when we needed it. Chesapeake is just so explosive," said Collins.

Best finished with 19 points and eight rebounds. Delimpo had 13 points and 13 rebounds while Barbour had 11 points and three assists. Waugh had nine points and six steals and Beckett Gue handed out three assists.

Chesapeake ended the season 23-2. It was the school’s seventh regional appearance and sixth under Persin.

Thiel led all scorers with 26 points. Todd Hensel had 10 rebounds.

Ridgedale will play Belpre at 3 p.m. Saturday in the regional finals.