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The gym was rocking Thursday night for what felt more like a playoff game than the second game of the season. But that’s to be expected when border rivals Carroll and Trimble collide.
The Panthers dominated on the inside, out-rebounding the Raiders 33-21 and shooting 43 percent from two-point range, while the Raiders drained 12 threes from the outside. But it was Carroll’s pressure defense that gave them a plus-11 turnover margin and secured a 67-56 win at home.
“I’m just tickled to death that we were able to win this game; it was a really well-played game,” Carroll head coach Carroll Yager said. “It was a great atmosphere. It was like a district tournament game or something. Both teams were really getting after each other, playing hard, clean. We played awfully, awfully well. When you make 12 threes and don’t come a way with a win, that says a lot for what we were doing in a lot of other ways. … They really shot the ball well.”
Trimble hit 12 of 28 from behind the arc, tying Carroll’s percentage inside at 43 percent. “We’ve worked really hard over the past 12 months, a lot of gun work, a lot of individual form shooting,” Trimble head coach Johnny Leep said. “We typically let our guards shoot about 500 shots a day on the gun, and we really committed to that. We’ve just got a lot of natural ability in our shooters.”
The Raiders’ Andrew Young led the way, hitting six of 11 for 19 points and added two assists. Evan Long hit four of seven from long range for 12 points and also had two assists. Robbie Brooks finished with 12 points, five assists and four rebounds, while Michael Dunaway scored six points, grabbed 10 rebounds and dished out three assists. Ethan Merrill scored four points and Dusty Wyssbrod scored three points.
While Yager said he is happy with his team’s ability to stop Trimble’s penetration, they still need to work on closing out faster on shooters.
Carroll’s Dallas Gibson led all scorers with 22 points and 15 rebounds — eight offensive and seven defensive. He and fellow senior Trey Boles were double-covered most of the night. Boles scored 15 points, pulled down eight rebounds and dished out two assists.
Brandon Stewart finished with nine points and three assists; Dakota Corbin scored eight points and grabbed three rebounds; Jacob Wise scored seven points with three assists and three rebounds, and Jay Damron scored six points.
Leep said his team focused on Gibson and Boles with their triangle-and-two defense, thinking that taking them away would give his team the best opportunity to win. However, this strategy left Trimble vulnerable to offensive rebounds, which Carroll took advantage of, especially early.
“I coached Dallas ever since he was in seventh grade and his evolution as a player has been tremendous,” Leep said. “He is relentless on the glass, and he is one of the top players in the 8th Region – even though he doesn’t get a lot of credit for it sometimes – and I think he’s going to emerge this year. You’ll see him playing on a college court somewhere next year.”
Covering Gibson was Dunaway, a freshman playing in his first varsity game. Leep praised Dunaway for his effort. “He’s going to be a heck of a player in this region for a while and a force to be reckoned with. His basketball IQ is off the charts, and that allows him to work around and do some nice things for us, offensively and defensively.”
Trimble scored the first five points of the contest, with an opening basket by Dunaway and a three off an inbounds play by Long. Carroll answered by making three straight steals and converting them into five points, tying it up.
The two teams traded baskets until Carroll took the lead for good with about a minute remaining, when Boles scored on the block as Dunaway flopped to the floor, attempting to draw a charge, 15-14. Carroll led 17-14 at the end of the first quarter.
The Panthers extended their lead to eight by halftime, 30-22, outscoring the Raiders 13-8.
But Trimble wouldn’t go down quietly, outscoring Carroll by a bucket in the third quarter.
Dunaway hit a big basket in the fourth to pull Trimble within five points, 57-52, and forcing a Carroll timeout with 1:59 remaining.
Out of the break, Gibson called for the ball on the block and scored off an assist by Wise.
Carroll’s defense stood tall the next two possessions as Trimble threw a bad pass and Gibson blocked Young’s 3-point attempt. Damron took the ball the other way, was fouled and hit both charity shots to put the game out of reach, 61-52.
Overall, the Panthers did a good job of playing with the lead, protecting the ball,being patient and knocking down free throws when it counted. The team turned the ball over just eight times in the contest, and while they only shot 63 percent (15-24) from the line overall, the Panthers hit 13-18 in the fourth quarter.
Wise stepped up big late in the game coming off the bench. The junior hit a 3-pointer to open the final period, nailed both of his free throws and dished out three big assists, one off a steal. “Jacob is really playing well,” Yager said. “He just tries to play tough defense and just gets the ball to the right spots.”
Despite the loss, Leep saw a lot of positives for his young team in their season-opener.
“The way we shared the ball, made extra passes, the way we defended for the whole possession,” he said. “We talked about turnovers at halftime, we came out in the second half and we didn’t turn the ball over. We ran our sets, we screened well. I couldn’t be more proud of a team than I’ve ever coached than I was of this team tonight.”
Yager said every player who saw action contributed in a positive way. “I think that’s a real good sign of good things for us to come because when you take a team’s best shot, I think, and they’re able to win, that’s good. Coach Leep had them very well prepared, and it was just a great, great game.”