Playing with a lead can sometimes be a challenge for relatively younger teams. The Pitt-Titusville Panthers experienced what most would classify as a growing pain on Thursday in their season-opener against the visiting Jamestown Community College Jayhawks.

Pitt-Titusville trailed at halftime by four points, but eventually worked back to take a 72-63 lead with just under nine minutes left to play. However, JCC was able to respond with a 19-5 run coming out of a timeout to pull away for the 90-77 victory. 

Jamestown’s Sheick Kourmora and Pitt-Titusville’s Simeal Wofford totaled 27 points apiece to lead their respective teams in scoring. Jake Hougan finished with a double-double of 20 points and 13 rebounds for the Jayhawks, as did UPT’s Izaiah Dickerson, who totaled 17 points and 13 rebounds.

“It’s a tough game to open with,” said Pitt-Titusville coach Ryan McKissock, who is in his first season at the helm of the program. “I think Jamestown is pretty good. That’s a big test for us. We had them down late and we didn’t take care of the ball, but we have a young team that’s trying to learn. I think they found a growing pain on how to learn.”

JCC held the early advantage following the opening tip, and maintained a 13-9 lead after the first few minutes of play. UPT answered the bell with a 9-3 run, thanks in part to its full-court trap defense that wreaked havoc on JCC throughout the game. The Panthers created five turnovers in that span and Wofford, a Meadville High School graduate, tallied eight straight points.

Over the course of the evening, UPT forced 17 total turnovers with a defense that hasn’t been in the arsenal of the club for that long, according to McKissock, and the Panthers earned their first lead, at 18-16, midway through the first half.

“We’ve been working on it a little bit in practice,” McKissock said. “These kids are all good kids, and they listen and learn pretty quickly. They’ve picked it up in the last four days. I’m pretty happy with it.”

Using the three-point game and a string of Panther turnovers, the Jayhawks regained the lead by halftime, at 41-35. Kourmora and Kane Kenyon each hit a pair of triples for JCC, who shot 50% (8-16) from beyond the arc during the contest. UPT did hold a 35-33 advantage with 2:40 left on the clock, but turned the ball over in its final three possessions of the half. The Jayhawks capitalized with an 8-0 run to close out the half.

The Panthers defense once again sprang the club ahead coming out for the second half. UPT held JCC scoreless over a four-minute stretch, while netting seven takeaways during that span. UPT used the 12-0 run to take a 49-45 lead. The two teams remained within four points of each other until the midway point of the half, where the Panthers had a 7-0 run that put them ahead, 72-63, with 8:22 to go.

Unfortunately, the relatively youthful Panthers would see that lead slip away as the Jayhawks came back with a 19-2 stretch that would give JCC a lead it would not relinquish. Over that span, the Panthers attempted a handful of forced three-point shots that didn’t fall, and were shooting the ball like a team down by 20 points rather than ahead by about 10.

“We didn’t take care of the ball very well,” McKissock said. “We have a young team that is not used to being in those positions of being up. Our shot selection wasn’t good.”

Maplewood High School alumnus Derek Glancy finished with nine points in his UPT debut, while Seneca grad Colton Hoffman contributed 11 points, including three 3-pointers.

Despite the loss, McKissock liked how his team “competed to the end” and where they are at after only one game. UPT will host Penn State New Kensington on Saturday, at noon.

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