DEERFIELD — After digging itself into a big-early hole the Palmyra-Eagle girls basketball team fought tooth and nail to dig itself right back out of it. Unfortunately Deerfield still stood in its way.
In a showdown of Trailways South Conference frontrunners the host Demons never let that early advantage slip away and down the stretch had all the answers in a 60-52 win, sweeping the season series.
Deerfield (14-5 overall) improved to 10-0 in conference, while the Panthers (9-9, 8-2) fell two games back with two games remaining, allowing the Demons to clinch at least a share of their first Trailways South title since 2011-12.
“I’m proud of the way they competed, we were never out of it,” said Palmyra-Eagle head coach Andrew Tranel. “We’ve come from behind in other games and the girls always believe in themselves.”
Palmyra-Eagle came out a little flat allowing Deerfield to take a 10-4 lead, forcing Tranel to call a timeout with a little over 12 minutes remaining in the first half. That lead grew to 15 points, 20-5, when the Demons’ Hailey Eickhoff connected with a shot 5 minutes, 42 seconds to go before halftime.
Deerfield led 30-17 at the break.
A three-point play by sophomore guard Kyler Koutsky and then a Koutsky 3-pointer pulled Palmyra-Eagle within seven.
The Demons pushed the lead back to double digits, but another Koutsky 3-pointer cut the hosts’ lead to 38-32 with 9:15 remaining.
However, Deerfield had an answer as freshman Steffi Siewert got a kind roll on a driving layup, and Palmyra-Eagle never got any closer.
“They did have an answer, give credit to them. They’re a good team and I wish them luck the rest of the way,” Tranel said.
Deerfield made 7-of-10 free throws down the stretch to seal the victory and a share of the conference championship.
“This time of the year is exciting. That gym was electric and that kind of atmosphere tonight is what high school basketball is all about,” added Tranel.
Koutsky led the Panthers with 20 points while junior guard Ally Czeshinski added 14 and senior guard Hannah Steinbach chipped in 13.
Siewert scored a game-high 22.
The Panthers return home Friday to host Johnson Creek in Trailways South play. Tipoff is 7:15 p.m.
DEERFIELD 60, PALMYRA-EAGLE 52
Half: Deerfield 30, Palmyra-Eagle 17
Palmyra-Eagle (fg ft-fta pts) — Fredrick 0 1-4 1, Czeshinski 5 3-6 14, Steinbach 3 4-4 13, Koutsk 7 4-4 20, Kysely 1 0-0 2, Ma. Nettesheim 0 2-4 2. Totals — 16 14-22 52.
Deerfield — Winger 1 0-0 3, Eickhoff 5 1-5 11, Ezzell 1 2-2 4, Siewert 7 8-10 22, Brattlie 1 0-0 3, Haak 7 1-5 15, Rucks 1 0-0 2. Totals — 23 12-22 60. 3-point goals — PE (Steinbach 3, Koutsky 2, Czeshinski 1) 6; DEER (Winger, Brattle) 2. Total fouls — PE 21, DEER 20. Fouled out — PE Fredrick, Czeshinski.