It was a back-and-forth opening half in Tuesday night's Interstate Eight battle between Coldwater and Pennfield.
The Panthers would take a 25-23 at the half, led by junior Graham Boyd's 15 point effort but it would be the Cardinals coming out of the gates strong in the third quarter.
Ethan Crabtree would score six consecutive points combined with a Brandon Downs triple that led to a 9-1 run for Coldwater to take the lead early in the third quarter.
The defensive effort would ramp up for Aaron Bucklin's group as well, forcing several turnovers and it was all capped off with a three at the buzzer by senior Brock Thornton to make it 45-36 after three.
And it would be that defensive effort that will get credited for the 55-43 win. Coldwater would hold Luke Davis and Aiden Burns, two of the top scorers in the Interstate Eight, to just 13 combined points for the Panthers.
"I love the way we came out and responded in the second half," said head coach, Aaron Bucklin. "In the first half, we had to get our legs under us but as soon as that happened, I thought the boys competed and played like we expect to play.”
Ethan Crabtree would score 22 points to lead the way offensively for the Cardinals but it was a team effort on defense.
"Coach is preaching defense," Crabtree said after the win, "defense leads to everything: scoring, passing, assists, so once that picked up, our offensive game picked up and everyone was facilitating and doing what they need to do. This is always a big rivalry between us, last year they got us twice which really hurt, so this feels good and we’ll get them at home here soon.”
Coldwater improves to 5-1 in conference and 6-1 overall while the Panthers fall to 4-2, 7-2. The Cardinals will host Harper Creek on Friday in another big I-8 showdown.