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Panthers win district championship, to compete in girls' state sectionals

Had anyone told Ed Feibig that his girls' basketball team at Mehlville Senior High School would be a contender for the Class 5 District 8 championship, he might have laughed at them.

Many people in the high school basketball community, including the Panthers' head coach, believed that in order to win the district championship, they would need to defeat Cor Jesu — that's if the Chargers were in the championship game.

The Panthers (17-9, 3-4 Suburban West Conference) found themselves in the driver's seat of the tournament after Seckman pulled a shocking 54-51 win over Cor Jesu in the semifinal game.

Feibig would have liked to play the Chargers if given the chance.

We wanted to play them," Feibig told the Call. "When they lost to Seckman, we knew we had a shot at this."

Mehlville opened up the tournament with a hard-fought 59-57 win over Lindbergh in the district semifinal. The win not only signified the Panthers' advancement into the championship game, but it also dealt with the bragging rights of south county.

"All of these kids know each other and are good friends," Feibig explained. "Of course, you don't want to lose to your friends."

Mehlville's Kayla Gordon led the Panthers with 22 points and two rebounds in their win over Lindbergh. Feibig believes that one the reasons for the Panthers' success this season is both Kayla and her twin sister, Alyse.

"She (Kayla) was on fire," Feibig said. "She's one of those kids that's streaky, but when she's hot, you just want to give her the ball."

Also scoring in double figures was sophomore forward Michelle Senf, who had 14 points, 10 rebounds, one assist and one steal. Senior guard Carissa Pratt was right behind Senf with a 10-point effort, in which she hit two three-point shots.

"Carissa's so consistent," Feibig said. "She's an excellent free-throw shooter and is probably one of the best on the team."

In the championship game against Seckman, the Panthers took a commanding 30-15 lead at the half and never looked back as they cruised to a 60-30 win over the Jaguars.

"Saturday night was probably our best game of the season," Feibig said. "They couldn't stop our inside game and we held their two big scorers (Cayla Clark and Mandi Newsome) to just 12 points."

Despite having a case of the butterflies before the game, the Panthers were led by Senf's 22-point effort, in which she pulled down six rebounds and created two steals.

"She (Senf) was really nervous before the game," Feibig said. "The more nervous she seems to get, the better she plays."

Freshman forward Alyse Gordon also had a solid evening with 18 points, six rebounds and one assist in the Panthers' win over the Jaguars.

"As the game was going on, I didn't even realize that she was scoring as much as she did," Feibig said.

"Every day since the Borgia tournament, those girls (Alyse and Kayla Gordon) have been super. They just won't quit."

The Panthers have very little time to celebrate their win over Seckman as they take on Incarnate Word Wednesday in the state sectional.

Feibig knows that his girls will have their work cut out for them against one of the top teams in the state.

"What they (Incarnate Word) do is get the ball inside and nobody stops them," Feibig said. "We're going to have to be creative on defense and hope that they press us."

One of the keys to the game against Incarnate Word will be whether Mehlville can get the Red Knights into a running game, which would benefit the undersized Panthers.

"If you're running, it's hard for them to set up that big red wall that they have," Feibig said.

"It's going to be a tough match-up for us."

The Panthers' game against Incarnate Word is slated for a 6:30 p.m. start at Northwest House-Springs High School.

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