HINGHAM – Bob Rodgers did something he doesn’t usually do.
On Friday evening, with 15 minutes left to spare before the opening tip off of the Whitman-Hanson Regional High boys’ basketball team’s game against Hingham, the 18-year head coach took a backseat for a moment.
He sent his seniors into the locker room to preach to his team, while he remained on the bench.
“I told them, ‘This is your team, you tell them,’ Rodgers said.
‘It’s not just about you playing well, it’s about getting the team ready to play.’”
The move seemed to have paid dividends. Four weeks after suffering the program’s worst regular-season loss in over 10 years, a 71-45 defeat to Hingham, the Panthers rebounded for a 68-51 Patriot League Keenan Division win over the Harbormen.
“It’s just a testament to a team of resiliency,” Rodgers said. “I give the kids all the credit in the world. I’m really proud of my guys.”
The Panthers’ triumph denied Hingham (14-2, 11-2) a share of the league title — at least for now.
When the Panthers (13-4, 11-2) needed a bucket, they turned to their senior captain Sean Leahy, who finished the night with a game-high 25 points and 10 rebounds.
“We wanted it, we just wanted to win tonight,” Leahy said.
Leahy poured in 13 points during the first half as W-H took a 34-30 lead into the break.
Down 35-34, a minute into the third quarter, the Panthers would go on a 10-1 run – sparked by five points from senior captain Jacob Hanson Bartlett (13 points, 5 rebounds) – to pull ahead 44-36 with 4:21 remaining in the frame.
With four minutes remaining, Tajh Hunter sliced to the hoop for two and drew a foul. After the free-throw make, W-H was ahead, 57-42.
Hunter, who finished the contest with nine points and five boards, played an integral role in W-H’s defensive scheme. The junior guard limited Hingham’s John Gates, who had 14 points in the two clubs’ previous meeting, to just one point (free throw with 3:11 remaining in the third quarter).
“It was definitely a tough matchup, he’s definitely one of the best shooters in the league,” Hunter said. “I just moved my feet, tried to stay with him and tried not to let him get in my head.”
If W-H is victorious Friday against Quincy and Hingham beats Plymouth North on Thursday, the two teams will share the league title.