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For the second year in a row, the Gallatin County Lady Wildcats eliminated the Carroll County Lady Panthers from the 31st District Tournament, winning 66-31. Later that evening, Carroll head coach and athletic director Randy Mefford announced in an email he was retiring from both positions. He will remain as athletic director through the end of the school year. Mefford just completed his 32nd year of coaching. He coached the Lady Panthers for nine years after coaching the Panthers’ team for 11 years.
Gallatin defeated Carroll twice during the regular season by similar margins, 62-36 on Dec. 17 and 63-32 on Jan. 7. “We kind of played a match-up zone against them, and they shot the lights out of it when we played them before,” Mefford said. “So we worked the last week or so on just trying to guard man-to-man, but we couldn’t guard them man-to-man or zone either way. They’re just really good. They can make shots; when you come out on them, they go past you. They’re just so much quicker than we are. They’re not really that big, but they really, really are aggressive.”
The Lady Panthers had hoped to get off to a quicker start this time against the Lady Wildcats, but a dozen turnovers helped put them in a 24-5 hole by the end of the first quarter. “I thought we were ready to go, but that’s one of the things that we talked about, we’ve got to get off to a good start and not be intimidated,” Mefford said. “But it seemed like they got out on us quick and it was over early and wasn’t much any of us could do.”
In the second quarter, the lead ballooned to 34-5 before Lauren Moore scored two straight baskets for the Lady Panthers, 34-9 with 1:50 to go. Gallatin took a 38-9 lead into the locker room.
Carroll outscored Gallatin in the third quarter, but by then Mefford said they had called off the dogs. “When you get someone down by 30 they tend to feel sorry for (you) a little bit,” he said. “So they backed off a bit, but we played better. The pressure of playing in the district tournament is unlike any other pressure that you face because it’s an elimination game and I guess we felt that some, but we didn’t perform well tonight, but they had a lot to do with it.”
On the positive side, Moore shined coming off the bench, grabbing 10 rebounds to go along with her four points. “Lauren’s a bright spot for the future,” Mefford said. “She’s a freshman, and she battles the board. … She’s come a long way from never really playing before. She’ll be one we’ll be counting on next season.”
Carroll County finished the season 6-21, 4-16 in the region and 3-7 in district play.
The 2011-12 season turned out differently than anyone following Lady Panther basketball would have thought it would with the season-ending injury to leading scorer Hannah Devine in the second game of the season.
“It probably [would have] been a lot different had we had our best player not get hurt,” Mefford acknowledged. “But you’ve got to be ready for somebody going down … with an injury. Losing Hannah was a devastating blow to our team, and it just made it tough on the rest of them. But I told the seniors in thelocker room, they’re a great bunch of kids, and I was very pleased with the effort that they gave and they really tried hard this year. They tried to do what we wanted them to do.”
The Lady Panthers graduate five seniors: Brittany Arvin, Andie Hardesty, Nikki Hill, Jayla Tomlinson and Devine. With no juniors, the rest of the team is young, but relatively experienced after this season.
“I told the kids who are remaining they’ve got to get into the weight room, get stronger and they’ve got to work on their skills to be able to beat a team like that,” Mefford said. “… We had four seniors that played and then we had no juniors, so the rest of them were sophomores and freshmen and we even had an eighth grader that got varsity time. … They got [on] the court where in normal years they wouldn’t have been playing that much but they got a lot of the minutes that will help them down the road.”
In the email announcing his retirement, Mefford said coaching the girls had “been a true blessing in my life,” and he hopes the Carroll County Schools administration will “act quickly to find a replacement so that those basketball players who are returning will get the chance to work on their games individually and as a team this spring and summer.”
Carroll County (31)
Kindoll 6, Williamson 6, Moore 4, Hardesty 4, Ogden 3, Tomlinson 3, Hunter 2, McIntyre 2, Groseclose 1.
Gallatin County (66)
Carroll County 5 4 11 11_31
Walton-Verona 24 14 10 18_66