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By DAVE TAYLOR
The Trimble Banner
The visiting Carroll County Panthers netted 33 of their 44 first half points from downtown en route to spoiling the Trimble County Raiders’ season home opener Dec. 5, 70-59.
“I think we were 11 for 20 from three at the half. That’s lights out shooting right there,” Panthers head coach Carroll Yager said following the game. “We don’t normally shoot the ball that well.”
Trimble head coach Johnny Leep III attributed Carroll County’s strong start to “a coaching mistake on my part. We came out in a zone. To be honest, I was terrified of getting in foul trouble with the way the game was predicted to be called. I talked to a lot of my referee friends and they said how close they were going to call it. They didn’t call it as close as was anticipated. Carroll County shot it well and we just didn’t handle it too well.”
The Panthers struck six times from beyond the arc in the first quarter and added another five in the second eight minutes of play. The Panther defense forced Trimble to turn the ball over six times in the opening period, as Carroll County jumped out to a 25-12 lead at the quarter stop.
Trimble canned only four field goals in the second quarter and tried to stay in the game at the free throw line, where the Raiders converted 10 of 16 attempts. Carroll County led at the halftime break, 44-30.
“We were very fortunate that we were hitting early and we were able to get a little bit of a lead and then to do the things to help keep the lead once we got it,” Yager said. “I thought we did a good job defensively, especially the first half. We shot the ball real well but one thing we were trying to concentrate on was get out on their 3-point shooters and I don’t think they had a three the first half. That was big for us, too. Even though our shooting stood out I thought our defense was real good, too.”
Yager said he and his coaching staff have spent a lot of time in practice working on his team’s inside players stepping out and shooting threes.
“Tonight was an exceptional night,” he said. “We weren’t necessarily looking for anybody in particular. We were just looking for open shots and I think they probably got juiced up a little bit. They probably took some shots I’d rather they’d not took, and they were hitting them.”
Leep said the Panthers are a senior-laden team, and “they were smart down the stretch, strong. Their bigs are almost like guards. They can all handle it and dribble it a little bit and that played to their advantage down the stretch. We weren’t able to turn them over.”
Carroll’s ability to shut down Trimble’s Evan Long from long range in the first half “was absolutely huge,” Leep said. “We knew coming in they were going to run and [the] defense was going to throw two guys at (Long). We didn’t do a good job screening to get him open. He’s a very unselfish player and he looked when he did get it and fed the ball to Michael [Dunaway] well, but a good defensive team can take away one of your components but then, in turn, a good team can exploit other areas and we just didn’t do that well enough.”
Leep said Long’s inability to get looks at the basket was “definitely frustrating for him. He’s used to getting a lot of good looks and that’s going to be a transition for him. We’re going to have to do a better job as a staff of designing things to help him get open and help him get some good looks early in the game where he can keep his confidence up. I thought he did (get down) a little bit, but I thought he battled, too. Evan plays harder and works harder than any kid I’ve ever coached. I’ve said that a lot of times. I can’t find a lot of fault in his game.”
Yager said he has told his players that there are certain things that they are going to have to do if they’re going to have a chance at being successful. “One of those is defense,” he said. “We’re going to have to be able to play good defense and stop people. They’ve really bought into that.”
The Raiders rallied in the third quarter to cut the deficit to 10 at 50-40 after three quarters of play and drew within eight, at 50-42, on their first
possession of the final quarter, but that’s as close as they would come as the Panthers converted 15 ofpossession of the final quarter, but that’s as close as they would come as the Panthers converted 15 of 18 charity tosses in the final eight minutes to seal the deal.
Trimble’s Dunaway led both teams in scoring and rebounding with 23 points to go with 13 rebounds for his first double-double of the season. Long, who had five points in the first half, canned three treys and a deuce in the second half for 16 in the game. Andrew Young scored 11 points and Josh Rexroat added seven points for the Raiders. Rexroat also pulled down 11 rebounds in the game.
“Josh Rexroat is definitely an up and coming player,” Leep said. “We’re working with him on being more consistent. He shows flashes of brilliance and then for four or five possessions he takes off. There’s nobody in our program that wants to be a better player than Josh Rexroat and that’s simply going to make him a good player one day. He has all the athletic ability in the world and the tools. Once he gets a little more game experience under his belt he’s going to be outstanding to watch.”
Dakota Corbin led Carroll County’s offensive effort with 21 points. Corbin also was the Panthers’ leading rebounder with 10 boards. Also contributing double-figure efforts to Carroll’s offense were Isaiah Hogan with 13, Jacob Wise with 11 and Austin Crowell with 10 points.
Leep said that Carroll County “had their sea legs under them” having already played their season opener earlier. The fact that Trimble is young with three sophomores in the starting lineup “is difficult and we’re going to have some growing pains right now until those guys mature a little bit. They’re all real good players, but they’re still young.