CARTERVILLE -- With all the talent that has emerged for the PInckneyville High School boys basketball team this season, it's easy to forget the Panthers have just two seniors on their roster.
One of those two seniors, Kelton Linze, had a breakout game Friday night with five 3-pointers and 17 points as Pinckneyville held off Carterville, 69-54, in an SIRR Mississippi Division matchup.
While the weather outside was cold and treacherous, the Panthers used hot shooting to improve to 16-2 overall and 5-0 in the conference.
Dawson Yates scored a game-high 23 points for Pinckneyville, which is currently ranked fourth in the latest Associated Press Class 2A statewide rankings.
Carterville (8-10, 3-2) was ready for the Panthers and led early on, but Yates had seven points and Pinckneyville went into the second period with a 14-10 lead.
Pinckneyville's other senior, Dylan Houghland, contributed a key 3-pointer in the opening frame.
In the second quarter, Linze drilled three 3-pointers to keep the Panthers ahead, then a layup at the buzzer by Grant Tanner on an inbounds play sent Pinckneyville into the locker room with a 32-27 advantage.
The Lions stayed close with Eli Downen scoring six points and Bryce Anderson putting in five in that second quarter.
The second half started with a 3-pointer from Hunter Riggins before Linze tossed in two more triples to make it 41-28.
Yates also connected from deep as the lead grew and the Panthers took a 54-40 lead into the fourth after Ben Restoff scored at the buzzer.
Yates, Linze and Tanner combined to go 7-for-7 from the foul line in the final minutes. Pinckneyville was 12 of 14 from the stripe for the game.
Tanner finished with nine points and Riggins had seven. Dre Scott added six, including two strong putbacks in the fourth quarter.
Downen led Carterville with 14 points. Anderson and Dylan Moore added 12 each and Austin Garbe had 10 as the Lions put four players in double figures.
Pinckneyville opens play in the Benton Invitational Tournament on Monday night against Meridian. The Panthers' other games at the BIT are as follows: vs. Hamilton County on Jan. 16 (7 p.m.); vs. Sesser-Valier on Jan. 18 (8:30 p.m.); vs. Carlyle (1 p.m.) and Benton (8:30 p.m.) on Jan. 19.