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The Carroll County Panthers wrapped up Homecoming Night festivities in fine style by sealing the deal in a close-knit contest with Eminence, 48-46, Saturday.
“I was real pleased with our effort,” head coach Carroll Yager said. “... I think it was a real good, competitive win for us. That’s what we needed right now was a competitive win.”
The game was very tight most of the way with each team playing in spurts. Fronting 11-10 after a quarter of play the Panthers stretched their advantage to seven at 21-14 with just under four minutes remaining in the first half. Eminence cut the lead to four by halftime. Two quick baskets by Trey Boles in the first minute of the third period boosted the Panthers to a 25-17 advantage.
Eminence came alive after a time out and pulled to within 25-23. Then it was the Panthers’ turn for another offensive spurt as Carroll jumped out to a 37-28 lead with about a minute remaining in the third quarter. A three-point play by the Warriors’ Bradley Foree chiseled the Panther advantage to 37-31 at quarter’s end.
Carroll County had an eight-point lead at 42-34 with 4:22 remaining to play. Eminence scored six points on two successive three-point possessions to pull within 42-40 with 3:23 to play. After a Panther turnover and foul the Warriors sliced the lead to one with a free throw by Foree. Both teams traded baskets and free throws until John Perry put the Panthers back on top by two with a free throw at 9.3 seconds on the clock.
Eminence went the length of a floor and set up a play for a tie or go-ahead basket but a desperation fling by Dre Banta rimmed out at the horn sealing the win for Carroll County.
“We’ve played some close games and weren’t able to win,” Yager said. “You hate to talk too much about winning but it does make a difference at the end. That’s why they keep score. I think the guys felt a lot better about finishing the game. Hopefully this is going to be a boost as we come down the stretch towards the rest of our season here.”
The Panthers made what Yager called “some offensive miscues” while leading in the second half. His veterans were “trying to play from the head when we didn’t need to score,” he said. “You’d like to try to run a little clock when you’ve got a little bit of a lead but you don’t want to quit attacking. A lot of times it’s a matter of one person trying to take it and do something when you really don’t need it.”
Boles, who had been held to a three-point offensive effort against Owen County the night before, stepped up to lead the Panthers in scoring with 19 points, including two baskets from three-point range.
“That’s a good game for him, that’s a varsity career high,” Yager said. “We’re trying to get some balance in our scoring. We’re trying to come together and play better as a team so that’s good that we had somebody that’s our leading scorer who has had games of four and five points to step up like he did. That’s a plus for us.”
Ethan Stewart added 14 points and Dallas Gibson contributed eight points in the win.
Foree led the Warriors with 20 points, and Brandon Mitchell added 12.
“Every time I’ve seen them play they’ve played a little bit better,” Yager said of the Warriors. “They’re athletic. They’ve got some good quickness.”
Yager said he hoped his team can learn from the effort “how to play in the final five minutes of the game when the game is close. I think if you can play some close games like this and when the clock stops you’re ahead it helps you confidence-wise when you’re in that situation the next time. In the back of your mind the next time you’re in a game like that is that you have had success. When you’ve won you’ve had that taste, and I think that helps.”