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It was a nail biter. In the end the tension-packed Carroll County fan base erupted in frenzied joy as the Lady Panthers battled from behind to defeat Williamstown with a blink of an eyelash left on the clock.
Jill Butcher’s free throws with two-tenths of a second remaining to play were strokes of the meat cleaver that made a fillet of Williamstown’s chances at victory Friday. Calmly, Butcher stepped to the line after being fouled on a putback of a Hannah Devine miss. Carroll trailed 55-54 at the time. Butcher’s first free toss swished the nets to knot the score and brought the Lady Panthers back from a nine-point deficit just seven minutes, 59.8 seconds earlier.
Williamstown called a time out to try to cool Butcher’s hot hand but when the senior forward toed the charity stripe a minute later her second attempt duplicated the first. The Lady Demons barely had time to inbound the ball before the final buzzer sealed their defeat, 56-55.
“I was really happy for Jill Butcher when she hit those free throws,” Carroll County Head Coach Randy Mefford said. “This is a night she will remember for the rest of her life.”
The win vindicated a two-point, double-overtime loss on Jan. 22 at Williamstown. Mefford said he expected this matchup would be just as exciting.
“Yeah, we know each other pretty well,” he said. “Would I look forward to meeting them again in the regional? Oh yes, but right now we’d be pretty happy to play anybody in the regional.”
Carroll fronted 15-13 after a quarter of play. Williamstown tied the score at 17-17 with 6:25 remaining in the second quarter, then took the lead with 3:27 remaining in the half. Carroll fell behind by seven before a trey by Kyndal Curry brought the Lady Panthers to within 29-25 at halftime. Free throws by Hannah Devine and a trey by Latasha Hunter put Carroll County back on top 30-29 with 5:24 remaining to play in the third period.
Williamstown took control of the game at that point and outscored the Lady Panthers 13-3 during the remainder of the quarter to take a 42-33 advantage into the final eight minutes of play.
Carroll County found the range from downtown, hitting five field goals from beyond the three-point arc during the final quarter. Williamstown matched the long-range artillery onslaught with two-point field goals and struggled at the charity stripe, hitting only three of eight free throw attempts to allow Carroll County back into the contest. In all, Williamstown hit only 13 of 22 charity attempts for 59 percent at the line.
“We always seem to put our opponents on the line more often than we get there,” Mefford said. “But tonight they weren’t very effective there and that helped us a lot.”
The Lady Panthers converted 11 of 14 free throws for 79 percent.
Mefford got a balanced scoring effort out of his players. Hannah Devine led all scorers with 19 points. Butcher also scored in double figures with 11 points. Both girls connected on three treys. Curry ended the game with nine points and was the Lady Panthers’ top rebounder with eight caroms. Hunter scored eight points, Nikki Hill four, Kelsey Ogden three and Andrea Hardesty two.