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The Carroll County Panthers enjoyed a six-point advantage in the waning seconds of the third quarter Monday in what head coach Carroll Yager called “the best game we’ve played.” But miscues over the final eight minutes of play allowed Louisville Collegiate to escape with a 56-53 victory when a three-point Ethan Stewart field goal attempt rimmed out at the final buzzer.
“I was pleased with our guys,” Yager said. “We’ve made tremendous improvement.”
The Panthers and Titans had met in a preseason scrimmage in Louisville and Collegiate settled that contest with a better than 30-point win.
“We made 38 turnovers against them when we scrimmaged them,” Yager said. “Tonight we made nine. That is the fewest turnovers we’ve had. We also for the first time had more assists than turnovers. That’s a huge step for us.”
The two teams had played to a 10-10 tie with 1:44 remaining in the first period before the Titans went on a 7-0 spurt to close the quarter. After a trey by the Titans’ Chris Townsend in the opening minute of the second quarter the Panthers found themselves staring at a 20-10 deficit on the scoreboard. Carroll clawed back by taking advantage of Collegiate’s lackluster performance at the free throw line, and pulled within one at 27-26 late in the half.
Technical fouls in the third quarter against two Titans allowed Carroll County to take its first lead at 34-33 with 5:09 remaining in the stanza. Carroll would increase the advantage to 44-38 before Collegiate connected on three of four free throw attempts to close the gap.
“We had the lead in the fourth quarter there and we took some shots that probably weren’t shots that we really wanted or even needed at that point,” Yager said. “We had three straight trips where we took bad shots. That was some young guys that were taking those shots. Their intent was to try to win but you’ve got to understand time and the situation and the clock. We did not need a three. All we needed to do was to continue to try to attack the basket. We had them in a good position to really get good shots and those three straight trips just really hurt us. Hopefully we’re going to grow from that.”
The Panthers’ final advantage came with 5:08 remaining to play at 49-47. The Titans tied the game at 4:32 to go and regained the lead on their next possession. Collegiate didn’t score again until the closing 38 seconds of the contest.
Carroll County pulled within 51-50 on the strength of a Dallas Gibson free throw with less than a minute to play. The Panthers’ inability to rebound missed Titan free throw opportunities proved their undoing as Collegiate managed to wrangle offensive boards on four successive trips to the line.
“We just didn’t do a good job of getting bodies on people,” Yager said. “We’re definitely going to spend some time going back and rehashing that. Two things that we’re going to work on is clock management and boxing out. Those were two glaring things in this game.”
The Titans called time out with 7.2 seconds left on the clock while holding a 56-53 lead. Coach Yager drew up a play for a three-point field goal attempt that would have sent the game into overtime.
“We were going to try to get the three to Ethan,” Yager reflected later. “Since we were going to try to bring it the length of the floor we hoped that it would be Ethan in a one-on-one situation. It didn’t develop exactly like we hoped it would. It was a little bit more contested than we hoped.”
Stewart led the balanced Panther scoring attack with 14 points. Dallas Gibson and Tyler Grant scored 11 apiece in spite of both exiting the game early with five personal fouls. Trey Boles added seven, Zach Wise scored six, Evan Mefford nailed a three and John Perry scored a free throw. Harris Levine led the Titans with 15 while Mohammed Abu Ali added 14.
“I thought our defense was real solid,” Yager said. “I was really pleased with a lot of things tonight. We’ve got a lot of guys that are getting game experience. I thought we played really well.”
The Panthers, now 4-10 on the season, will meet Cooper in a road game tomorrow night.