Panthers storm past the Rams

Posted: March 02, 2007

Neither fatigue nor nagging leg cramps could put a stop to the Palmyra girls' basketball team's dominance.

The Panthers had enough energy to defeat Salem, 81-59, in last night's South Jersey Group 1 quarterfinal at Palmyra.

With the win, the Panthers (19-6) will play host to Pitman in tomorrow's semifinal.

The two-time defending South Jersey champion Rams (15-9) finished two wins shy of a three-peat.

"I can't wait till Saturday," said Palmyra sophomore guard Lakia Artis, who finished with a career-high 37 points.

Playing transition basketball, Palmyra attacked Salem from the tip-off and had a double-digit lead in 5 minutes, 48 seconds.

However, it appeared that the Panthers' up-tempo style would be their undoing.

Noticeably fatigued, the Palmyra players tugged on their shorts while trying to catch a lungful of air during every stoppage in play.

At the start of the second quarter, Artis yelled, "I'm tired" to teammate Javon Pratt.

Pratt and Artis also battled through recurring cramps in the second half.

Artis' leg pain got so bad that she had to be attended to after making a layup in the fourth quarter. After spending a few minutes on the bench, the sophomore point guard resumed playing at her torrid pace.

"We knew we had to work hard . . .," she said. "We just had to control the game."

Artis did just that from the onset.

Looking to deny scoring opportunities for Palmyra post player Lailah Pratt, Salem opened the game with a zone defense.

Bad move.

Taking mostly wide-open shots, Artis scored 12 points on 5-for-6 shooting in the opening quarter.

"I knew I had to shoot it," said Artis, who averages 17.8 points.

And she kept shooting, even after the Rams put a defender in her face. While making a game-high five three-pointers, Artis went 12 of 15 from the field.

Lailah Pratt finished with 18 points and 18 rebounds.

While those two celebrated their team's performance, a teary-eyed Brittany Smith had a hard time dealing with Salem's early postseason exit.

"I personally feel terrible," said the senior guard, who finished with a team-high 22 points. "This is my senior year. We couldn't get a [South Jersey title] three-peat."

A lot of that was a result of Palmyra's ability to quash every Salem run with a clutch basket by Artis and Javon Pratt (12 points) or a defensive rebound by Lailah Pratt.

Contact staff writer Keith Pompey at 610-313-8029 or kpompey@phillynews.com.

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