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By KRISTIN SHERRARD
The Carroll County Panthers fell 53-36 to the LaRue County Hawks, finishing in fourth place in the North American Stainless and Carrollton/Carroll County Tourism Basketball Classic Wednesday night. Senior Tyler Grant and sophomore Dallas Gibson were named to the all-tournament team.
The Panthers went to their post players early. Grant made Carroll’s first four points and hit another basket later on in the quarter. Gibson attacked the rim and was fouled twice, making three of four foul shots in the first. The two teams traded baskets for most of the quarter, with Carroll up 13-12.
In the second quarter, the Hawks built a six-point lead with 2:18 to go. But the Panthers stayed close, pulling within three at the half, 28-25.
Both teams were playing toward their strengths in the first half. LaRue used their quick ball movement and ability to penetrate in the lane for open 3-pointers, while Carroll was pounding the ball inside to their post players.
However, in the second half, it was the Hawks who made the best adjustments coming out of the break. Carroll head coach Carroll Yager said LaRue extended out its defense, and Carroll did not do a good job of attacking the basket in the second half.
The Panthers stumbled out the gate with three turnovers on their first three possessions. Luckily for the home team, LaRue was only able to score two points off those early turnovers. Carroll was within striking distance, down 32-30 after a 3-pointer by sophomore Trey Boles. However LaRue’s junior guard Kyle Sheeran answered right back with a three of his own from the top of the key on the next possession. The Panthers did not get any closer for the remainder of the contest.
“I thought everything we did was better in the first half,” Yager said, including their passing, shot selection and defense. “… We shot one free throw the second half. So what that says is we really weren’t attacking; we were too passive. We didn’t move the ball as quickly; people weren’t getting to their spots as quick.”
Sheeran hit six 3-pointers and finished with 22 points, the game’s top scorer. Gibson led the Panthers with 11 points, followed by Grant with 10 points and Trey Boles, Ethan Stewart and Zach Wise each scoring five points.
Yager said the biggest problems were turnovers and slow ball movement. The Panthers committed 10 turnovers in the second half, 17 total, compared to just two turnovers by the Hawks. The Hawks used a press in which they would pick up the Panthers right after they crossed the half court line and pressure the ball.
Yager also said his team held the ball too long and did not get to their spots quickly enough. “We struggled sometimes making adjustments,” he said, “and if they’re not used to doing something and it’s a pressure situation, and I thought we got a little frustrated.”
While the Panthers held a slight total rebounding advantage, 30-26, LaRue pulled down 14 offensive rebounds, giving them more opportunities to score.
Yager said that in order for his team to improve, they have to be more focused.
“We were much more focused against Gallatin than we were tonight and that’s understandable. Gallatin was a rival, Gallatin was a game where we were still trying to win the championship and tonight after the game last night, everybody wanted to be playing in this championship game tonight and LaRue is the same. … You can get in a situation too where you can ‘oh no, here we go again,’ and we’ve got to get over the hump.”
The Panthers participated in the PRTC Holiday Classic in Jackson County Dec. 28-30. Results were unavailable by press time.