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By KRISTIN SHERRARD
Oh what a difference a few days can make. After being beaten 71-43 in a regular season game the previous Friday, Dec. 17, to district foe Gallatin County (4-3), the Carroll County Panthers (3-4) were competitive through most of the game and were improved many times over. The two teams battled in the second round of the North American Stainless and Carrollton/Carroll County Tourism Basketball Classic Tuesday with the Panthers falling short, 52-42.
“I was really proud of our guys; I thought we did a really good job with our game plan,” head coach Carroll Yager said.
A major part of that game plan was stopping Gallatin County’s Travis Davis, who torched the Panthers for 25 points in their previous meeting. Carroll held Davis to 0 points in the first half, 7 points in the game on one field goal and five free throws. Yager said his team struggled guarding him man-to-man, prompting him to switch to a box and one defense.
“Not only did he score that many points against it, but … he passes the ball so well,” he said. “Most of their offense goes through him, so we just wanted to see what they would do if we tried to use the box and one to keep him from scoring and keep their offense from going through him.”
Gallatin County jumped out to a 7-2 lead, forcing Carroll County to take a timeout with 5:07 to go in the first quarter. The Panthers went on a 10-2 run by attacking the basket, taking a 12-9 lead at the end of the quarter.
The two teams traded baskets in the second quarter and ended the half tied at 24-24.
Starting the second half, the Panthers missed their first shot and turned the ball over on three straight possessions in the first two minutes, giving the Wildcats the opportunity to build a five-point lead. Following a timeout, the Panthers finished the half strong with another 10-2 run, giving them a 34-33 edge going into the final quarter.
The two teams traded baskets before Gallatin County went on a 6-0 run of their own. With 4:40 to go, senior Ethan Stewart was called for an intentional foul after hammering Gallatin County’s Shane Williamson on his way to the basket. He was immediately taken out of the game and did not return. This was the third intentional foul called on Carroll County in two meetings with Gallatin. Senior Zach Wise was called for two intentional fouls in their previous meetings and served a one-game suspension.
“I think that’s one of the things we’re learning is that it’s going to be a physical game, and you’ve got to understand that you’re going to get knocked and banged,” Yager said about the foul. “You’ve just gotta keep playing and not get frustrated. That’s part of finishing the game is not getting frustrated. With that intentional foul, that is why he came out of the game, and then as the game progressed, we just felt like that we needed to finish with the way we did.”
Williamson hit both free throws, giving the Wildcats a 43-36 lead. With Gallatin up 45-38, Carroll switched to a 1-3-1 defense in hopes of creating more ball pressure. However, it was not enough to overcome the deficit.
“When it got down there to the end, we were right there with them,” Yager said. “They have a little bit more experience than we do; they’ve been in more close ballgames. … I think we’re at a point now where if we can take this game and grow with it and then learn how to finish, that’s big.”
Despite the loss, Yager said there were many bright spots in the game for the Panthers, including their post game. Sophomore Dallas Gibson was 7-10 from the field and finished the game with 16 points and 12 rebounds. Yager said by getting Gibson and seniors Wise and Tyler Grant more involved in the offense, it would free up their perimeter shooters.
“I thought we grew a lot,” he said. “The big thing was I thought we were competitive. In the last game, we weren’t competitive.”