The Knoxville Lady Panthers closed out 2019 with a trip to Eddyville to tangle with the EBF Rockets. The Panthers struggled in the defensive court during the half, but they were in high gear in the second half and posted a 66-39 victory to keep their record unblemished.

Knoxville jumped out to a 20-12 lead after the first quarter of play. Maggie Wilkins opened and closed the period with three balls and she also had a pair of driving layups in the quarter. Katie Keitges added a pair of inside buckets and a triple to the total and Marley McKay chipped in with a breakaway layup.

The second stanza saw Keitges open and close with three balls while Wilkins and McKay provided the rest of the offense. Wilkins drove for two baskets and McKay put down three free throws as Knoxville went into intermission with a 31-21 lead.

“I was not happy with our defensive effort in the first half,” Panther coach Jim Uitermarkt said. “We had been holding teams to single digit quarters and we did not get it done in the first half. It all starts with defense. When our defense is doing the job, we get into transition much easier and get better shots. So defense was our halftime focus.”

Whatever was said at halftime did the trick as the Panthers picked up the defensive intensity and took a 17-7 third quarter edge. And the offense came from transition and inside baskets except for a three by McKay.

With the defense getting deflections and steals, the offense rolled to an 18-11 edge as the Panthers coasted to a 66 -39 win.

“The defense was much better in the second half,” Uitermarkt said. “We were getting the steals and deflections that got our offense rolling and that is when we are at our best. Marley McKay had a nice double-double for us with 10 points and 11 rebounds. We are ready for the holiday break as some of our players are battling sickness.”

Wilkins and Keitges provided a two prong attack with 22 points each. Wilkins added to her line with seven assists and four steals while Keitges had three assists and five steals.

Keitges spoke of the improved second half and her recent thrill of becoming Knoxville’s all-time leading scorer in the five player game.

“It took us a while to adjust to the atmosphere here,” Keitges said. “It is smaller here and everything is so close to you. But we came on with more energy in the second half and were able to push the ball. When that happens, we find the better shots.

“I knew coming into the season that the goal was within reach and if I stayed healthy I would be able to reach it. I can’t even begin to count the number of shots I have taken. It all started in fifth grade and I have spent a lot of hours in the gym and some on outside courts. Our team has been together on AAU ball as well as Jr. High and High School Basketball. We have grown much as a team. It has been a wonderful experience and I am looking forward to the next level.”

The Panthers enter the holiday break with a 7-0 record and they will be back on the court January 3 when they host Bondurant-Farrar.

Knoxville scoring – Maggie Wilkins 10 0-1 22, Marley McKay 3 3-7 10, Tara Uitermarkt 3 0-0 6, Larissa Wells 0 1-2 1, Emma Dunkin 2 1-2 5, Katie Keitges 9 0-0 22, Team 27 5-12 66, Three point goals (7) Keitges 4, Wilkins 2, McKay 1

Knoxville rebounds (34) – McKay 11, Uitermarkt 6, Keitges 6, Wilkins 4, Dunkin 3, Charlee Heffron 2, Norah Pearson 1, Melanie Sullivan 1

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