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The motto for the night seemed to be ‘Whistle first, ask questions later’ in the match-up between the Lady Panthers and the Lady Jaguars of Cooper High School. The two teams committed a total of 45 fouls—25 on Cooper, 20 on Carroll—and shot a combined 61 free throw shots. But it was Carroll County’s ability to knock them down in the waning minutes that sealed the win for them at home, 68-62, Monday night.
“It’s always difficult to come out of the Class A tournament, win or lose, and play your next game, and tonight was no exception to that,” head coach Randy Mefford said, referring to the Lady Panthers’ Friday night loss to Walton-Verona. “Cooper came down here with a nice ball club. They had five guards out there, made it real hard for us to match up with them. I never felt real good all night defensively.”
Carroll County’s leading scorer junior Hannah Devine got off to a slow start, scoring only seven points in the first half. Senior Jill Butcher also got into immediate foul trouble, picking up three fouls in the first three minutes, earning her a seat on the bench. As a result, it was senior Kyndal Curry who picked up the slack and carried the team in the first half, scoring 11 of her team’s 23 first half points.
The Lady Jaguars also struggled to hit shots. They were held scoreless until sophomore Morgan Restaino hit a free throw with 2:37 to go in the first quarter. Their first basket came in the closing seconds of the quarter. However, the Lady Jaguars hit 10 of 13 from the line in the first half, putting them down only two at the half, 23-21.
The visitors took the lead on their opening possession of the second half, a three-point play by senior Carly Smith. The Lady Panthers then went on a 12-1 run to build a 10-point lead, but the Lady Jaguars would not back down. Carroll County held a five-point advantage going into the fourth, 42-37.
The Lady Jaguars scored four straight to pull within one point with 6:44 remaining. But the Lady Panthers responded coming out of a timeout, going on a 13-2 run. It was capped off by two technical foul shots by Devine after a technical foul called on Cooper head coach Shannon Turner with 4:10 remaining, 55-43.
Cooper began fouling Carroll on virtually every possession after that. However, the Lady Panthers nailed 13-19 from the stripe, exchanging free throws for baskets with the Lady Jaguars.
“They’re a dangerous team because they made five threes, four of them in the fourth quarter, so we couldn’t get away from them,” Mefford said. “That last quarter (was) 26-25, and thank goodness we shot our free throws well down the stretch because that’s how you come back and beat somebody.”
Devine found her jump shot in the second half, but it was her work at the charity stripe, 14-17, that contributed the most to her 35-point scoring effort. Both she and Curry registered double-doubles, with 10 rebounds each and Curry scoring 17 points.
Mefford said he was also pleased with the effort of junior Andrea Hardesty, especially in the second half. “She scored all six of her points in the second half when they left her open on that baseline, and she made some shots. She’s getting better. We’ve been trying to get her to shoot it, but she doesn’t want to shoot it, she’s a little hesitant. But tonight she made some nice shots for us, and she rebounds pretty well at times for us too.”
The Lady Panthers travel to Trimble County Thursday for their first of three straight road games. They will not return home until Jan. 28 for a match-up with Owen County.