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After dropping three straight games, the Carroll County Panthers (3-3) needed a spark to ignite their team. They found one in senior Tyler Grant.
Grant posted a double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds, five offensive and five defensive, in Carroll’s 66-26 blowout victory over Dayton (1-4) in the opening round of the North American Stainless and Carrollton/Carroll County Tourism holiday tournament.
“Tyler Grant probably had the best game of his career tonight,” head coach Carroll Yager said. “… He did a really good job of getting himself in position to receive the ball where he could be effective, and people were looking for him.”
Overall, Yager especially pleased with his team’s passing and their willingness to run the floor. The Panthers had 18 assists in the game, which tied the total number of assists the team had in the previous five games combined. Sophomore Brandon Stewart came off the bench and led the team with five assists.
“Brandon had a pretty good game tonight,” Yager said. “He made some real smart decisions; he made some good passes. He had a lot of things happen tonight that was real positive for him.”
Carroll came out with a modified starting lineup, as Yager was unsure if junior John Perry would be able to play after missing practice with a thumb injury and senior Zach Wise was serving a one-game suspension after being ejected from Friday night’s game against Gallatin County for committing two intentional fouls. Yager said Wise was re-instated by the Kentucky High School Athletic Association and was eligible to play in their next game.
The Panthers and Greendevils exchanged turnovers and baskets in the first quarter, ending with the home team up 10-8. In the second quarter, the Panthers went on a 10-0 run to extend their lead. The Greendevils did not score until there was 2:35 remaining until halftime. At the break, Carroll held a 26-12 lead, with Grant scoring eight of the team’s 16 points in the quarter.
Grant went right back to work in the second half, scoring on Carroll’s opening drive. Both teams played aggressively as evidenced by some hard fouls administered by both sides, including an intentional foul by Dayton on a drive to the basket by junior Evan Mefford. Mefford scored the basket and both free throws, completing a four-point play. The Panthers continued to pour it on even as the substitutes were brought into the game throughout the fourth quarter.
“I think from an offensive standpoint, we were running the floor better, particularly Tyler, … and I think we were looking for people more,” Yager said. “We talked about that and talked about that yesterday at practice. If we are going to get better, we’ve got to do a better job of moving the ball and seeing each other and looking for each other and playing more as a team. I don’t think we necessarily were playing selfish before, I just think they weren’t doing a good job of looking for reads and understanding maybe the importance of trying to help each other out out there.”
The Panthers also did a better job of rebounding, which had been one of their strengths but that they had struggled with the last couple of games. Carroll outrebounded Dayton 49-27, 11 offensive and 38 defensive. Sophomore Dallas Gibson led the team with 13 rebounds, and sophomore Trey Boles brought down nine rebounds.
Yager said he was also glad that he was able to give his young bench players some playing time, particularly in a game with less pressure. Those in the scoring column for the Panthers were Grant, 20; Ethan Stewart, 13; Mefford, 13; Gibson, 6; Perry, 6; Brady Hill, 4; Boles, 2; and Jay Damron, 2.
Carroll played a re-match against Gallatin County in their second round game Tuesday night. The Panthers lost 71-43 in their previous game. Results from the tournament game were unavailable by press time.