Panthers, Blankenship stun Pioneers to reach district finals

Published 6:23 pm Saturday, February 26, 2022

Chesapeake Panthers’ Levi Blankenship (4) drives for a layup as he scores to make him the program’s all-time leading scorer. Blankenship was one of five Panthers in double figures as they beat Zane Trace 64-54 in the Division 3 district semifinals on Saturday. (Photo by Tim Gearhart)

By Jim Walker

WAVERLY — It’s been quite a career for Levi Blankenship, but he’s happier right now with having quite a day.

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The Chesapeake senior guard was one of five players in double figures who helped the Panthers upset the Zane Trace Pioneers 64-54 in the Division 3 district semifinals on Saturday.

Winning the district semifinal game was a big moment for Blankenship and his teammates and the fact his 16 points helped get the win. But in the process of his scoring he became the Panthers’ all-time leading scorer.

Ben Bragg also had 16 points for the Panthers (15-8) who will play Wheelersburg at 6:30 p.m. Friday in the district finals at Waverly’s downtown arena.

While setting a school scoring record is an impressive accomplishment, Blankenship was unaware he was even near the scoring milestone.

“I had no clue honestly. I didn’t even know I was close. I’m just glad we got the win,” said Blankenship who now has 1,460 points.

Joining the double digit scoring for the Panthers were J.D. Daniels and Dannie Maynard with 11 points each while Caleb Cox came off the bench to get 10 points and 6 rebounds.

“They really stepped it up when I was struggling in the first half. They really picked it up. We kept our composure well this time. We handled the pressure better than they did and that’s why we came out on top,” said Blankenship.

“(Maynard) played great defense today and that helped out a lot.”

Zane Trace (17-6) was led by Kyle Stonerock with 21 points and 9 rebounds, Xzander Ream with 14 points and Nalin Robinson with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

The taller Pioneers held a decisive 44-27 rebound advantage but the Panthers forced them into 25 turnovers — 8 in the decisive fourth quarter.

“We did an OK job of keeping them out of doing what they like to do,” said Panthers’ coach Ryan Davis.

“We just got it sped up a little bit. We didn’t shoot it real well.  We only hit. Three or four 3-pointers but we made our free throws.”

Chesapeake took a 3-2 lead on a 28-foot 3-pointer by Maynard, but Stonerock had 6 points as the Pioneers went on a 9-0 run to lead 11-3 midway through the quarter.

Cox came off the bench to get a putback and back-to-back layups as the Panthers got within 11-9.

Bragg then came up with a steal and he converted it into a layup to tie the game at 11-all with 33 seconds left in the quarter.

Maynard had a layup and Bragg two layups to start the second quarter as the Panthers scored 14 unanswered points to lead 17-11.

A layup by Robinson ended the run at the 5:27 mark and a 3-pointer by Ream got the Pioneers within 18-16, but a 3-point play by Maynard put the lead at 21-16.

Blankenship’s driving layup extended the lead to 25-19 and a triple by Daniels opened up a 28-21 lead.

A putback by Robinson closed the gap to 30-25 at the half.

A layup by  Bragg and a pair of 3-pointers by Daniels opened up Chesapeake’s biggest lead to date at 38-30.

But Zane Trace got a trey from Ream and a layup from Robinson to quickly draw within 38-35.

Trailing 43-37, the Pioneers scored 6 straight including a dunk by Donavin Baker to tie the game at 43 and the game was 45-all at the end of the quarter.

A 3-point play by Blankenship and three foul shots and layup by Bragg had the Panthers up 53-45 to start the fourth quarter.

Ream hit a 3-pointer but Blankenship made a layup for not only a 55-48 lead but he became the Panthers’ all-time leading scorer passing previous leader Nathan Copley.

Robinson banked in a foul shot and Stonerock had a layup as the Pioneers cut the deficit to 55-51.

But the Panthers took over from that point and converted 7-of-8 free throws over the final 1:27 as they outscored the Pioneers 9-3 the rest of the game.

The Panthers made 16-of-22 free throws including 11-of-13 in the crucial fourth quarter when the Pioneers were forced to put them at the foul line.

Chesapeake 11 19 15 19 = 64

Zane Trace 11 14 20 9 = 54

CHESAPEAKE (15-8): Levi Blankenship 6 0 4-5 16, Dannie Maynard 2 1 4-5 11, J.D. Daniels 1 3 0-0 11, Braxton Oldaker 0 0 0-0 0, Ben Bragg 5 0 6-10 16, Caleb Cox 4 0 2-2 10, Carter Collins 0 0 0-0 0. Totals: 22-56 16-22 64. 3-pt goals: 4-14. Rebounds: 7-O, 20-D = 27 (Cox 6, Blankenship 5, Bragg 5). Team/deadball rebounds: 7. Turnovers: 10. Fouls 13. Fouled out: None.

ZANE TRACE (17-6): Ben Nichols 1 0 0-0 2, Nalin Robinson 5 0 1-4 11, Donavin Baker 2 0 1-2 5, Xzander Ream 1 4 0-0 14, Kyle Stonerock 10 0 1-1 21, Carter Hill 1 0 0-0 2, Brayden Jarrell 0 0 0-0 0, Trey Elder 0 0 0-0 0, Austen Ison 0 0 1-2 1. Totals: 23-47 4-9 54. 3-pt goals: 4-21. Rebounds: 16-O, 28-D = 44 (Robinson 10, Stonerock 9). Team/deadball rebounds: 8. Turnovers: 25. Fouls: 22. Fouled out: Robinson (4th 4:17), Nichols (4th 0:14).