Henry hangs first loss on Panthers

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By Kristin Beck

Riding high from their overtime win at district rival Owen County, the Panthers were pulled back down to earth Tuesday by the paws of the Henry County Wildcats. The visiting Wildcats defeated the Panthers 59-57 in a nail biter Dec. 11.

“I didn’t think we were anywhere near as sharp as we have been,” head coach Carroll Yager said. “… I don’t think we were as focused and ready to play. We were coming off of a big win at Owen, and I don’t think we were as mentally into it as we needed to be.”

Yager gave credit to the Wildcats on doing a good job of executing their game plan. “They played in such a way that they tried to slow us down and get us standing around and they did it,” he said. “We didn’t dictate how the game was played, they did.”

Things started out well for the Panthers. Senior Brandon Stewart scored on the opening play of the game off a cut to the basket. Following a Henry turnover, junior Dakota Corbin grabbed an offensive rebound and scored, and four plays later, he found senior Dallas Gibson on the block for a basket.

Following a timeout at the six-minute mark, Henry regrouped and forced Carroll into five straight turnovers in three-and-a-half minutes, while taking a three-point lead. Senior Trey Boles tied things back up on a 3-pointer off an inbounds pass, but by the end of the quarter, Henry held a 15-10 lead.

Carroll started getting in foul trouble in the second, while continuing to struggle taking care of the basketball. Stewart picked up his second foul with 5:48 remaining, sending him to the bench, followed soon after by the other starting guard, junior Austin Crowell.

But the half ended on a high note for the Panthers. Down nine points with time running out, senior Jay Damron stole a Wildcat pass and threw a behind-the-back pass to junior Jacob Wise, who was streaking down the court and took it in for a lay up as time expired, 27-20.

The Wildcats picked up right where they left off before halftime, going on a 7-1 run and forcing the Panthers to take a timeout with 5:16 to go in the third. Yager substituted Wise in for Gibson and Damron in for Corbin two minutes later, putting a four-guard lineup on the floor.

“We weren’t getting anything done,” Yager said, noting that his team was just standing around and he wanted to try and pick up the tempo and get more out of the full court press.

The smaller lineup kept the deficit about equal, with Carroll trailing 40-33 going into the fourth quarter.

With time winding down, the Panthers turned up the aggressiveness, attackingthe basket and drawing fouls. After sitting the bench most of the third quarter, Gibson returned determined to make an impact on the game. He scored 12 of his 18 points in the fourth, including 6-7 free throws in that span.

Carroll cut the lead to four points on a three-point play by Boles off an inbounds with 2:39 remaining.

The two teams battled back and forth, and Gibson cut the lead to three on a three-point play with 40.8 seconds left. Damron fouled immediately, and Henry County hit one of two free throws. On the next trip, Gibson drew a foul on the baseline and hit one of two with 24.2 seconds left. Damron fouled again on the inbounds, and Henry’s Chase Howard sank both shots, 59-54.

Out of a Henry timeout, the Wildcats deflected two passes out of bounds, taking precious seconds off the clock. Crowell hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer, ending the game, 59-57.

The Panthers shot just 36 percent from the field and an abysmal 19 percent (3-16) from behind the arc. Yager said the team did not get enough inside touches where they could kick it back outside for a better shot and also noted that a couple shots were in and rattled back out.

Henry point guard Landon New shot 50 percent from the field, including 2-2 from 3-point land and 6-8 from behind the line for 18 points.

Gibson also scored 18 points for Carroll and pulled down 10 rebounds for another double-double. Boles and Crowell also hit double-figures with 14 and 11 points, respectively. Also scoring for the Panthers were Wise, six; Stewart, five; Corbin, two; and Damron, one.