It was a journey that started in November as the North Lamar Panthers took the court against Sherman. It was a journey that took them to the American Airlines Center. A journey that had them playing against top 10 teams in Texas. It was a journey that saw them make the regional semifinals for the first time in 35 years.
Unfortunately for the Panthers, that's where the journey ended as they fell to AAA 73-56. Even though they were the only unranked team playing in Commerce, North Lamar showed why they belonged in the regional tournament.
North Lamar kept the game close for two and a half quarters thanks to their three-point shooting and their ability to get inside the lane. Versache Buchanan knocked down three of his five from behind the arc in the first half. Levi Porter added two more in the half.
AAA came in with a 6'-9" and a 6'-6" player. Both of whom were taller than the tallest Panther (Jake Stewart: 6'-5"). However, Stewart and Grant Erickson dominated the paint for North Lamar. They did what needed to be done to limit offensive rebounds and help keep AAA from scoring too many points in the paint.
One of the things that caught coach Homer Garner and the Panthers off guard was the outside shooting ability of AAA. As a team, they knocked down nine three pointers.
"What we didn't account for was their three point shooting. Those guys could shoot. They hadn't shown it on film. The film, though, can be deceptive. They were big, physical and can adapt to any style of play." - Homer Garner
North Lamar only trailed by seven at the break. It was the second half in which AAA started to show some separation. Versache tried keeping the game close with a couple of long balls from behind the arc. The Panthers, though, as a team would only knock down four shots in the quarter.
Unfortunately, the Panthers only knocked down five shots the entire second half. The rest of the points in the half came from the free throw line. North Lamar attempted 12 in the half and only missed three.
In the end, AAA walked away with the 17 point victory. Even though the team that finished the season Friday night wasn't the same team that started the journey in November, it was the team that finished the journey. This team came together and played their heart out every single night. From the starters to the role players, everyone chipped in and did exactly what coach Garner asked of them.
For the seniors, this is the last time they play basketball in a North Lamar jersey. This is the last time they will lace them up together and represent their school. It may be the last time they step on a court as a Panther, but the memories they left us will forever be etched in our minds.
From a tip-in at the buzzer to win the game over Melissa at the AAC, to the thrilling overtime came against the Paris Wildcats this team has given us something that will last a lifetime. They've given us the joy of watching a group of 11 kids play the game they love. They gave us the picture of a team and what a team can accomplish. For this, we are extremely grateful and we thank you.