Panthers knocked out of state All “A” tourney

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By Kristin Beck

The Carroll County Panthers gave a valiant effort, but the Cordia Lions were just too big and too fast for them to keep up, winning 72-42 in the first round of the state All “A” tournament Jan. 30 at the Frankfort Civic Center. The Lions would go on to defeat St. Mary and Betsy Layne before falling in the championship game to Newport Central Catholic.

“They probably were bigger at every position and maybe even quicker at every position,” Panthers head coach Carroll Yager said. The Lions boast a 7-foot eighth grader in the starting lineup and a 6-foot-8-inch forward off the bench who was their second-leading scorer on the night. Senior center Dakota Corbin is Carroll County’s tallest player at 6 feet 2 inches.

“They are a team that we have played no one (like) on our schedule and probably won’t play anybody after tonight that has that kind of speed and quickness and length,” Yager said. “Really, we were just trying to learn how to play against a team like that. I thought our effort was good. I’m real proud of the guys … We want to go home now and continue building on what we did in the regional tournament, and we wish Cordia the best. They just simply were a better basketball team than us, and they beat us tonight.”

The Panthers’ only lead of the game was on their first bucket. Corbin hit a 3-pointer to give his team a 3-2 lead with 5:53 to go in the first quarter. The Lions went on a 10-0 run and ended the quarter with a 14-6 lead. They led 29-15 at halftime.

Carroll County’s game plan was to make Cordia shoot threes and hope the Panthers could get the rebound, Yager said. In the first half, Cordia was just 2-11 from behind the arc, but outrebounded Carroll 15-7 – including seven offensive – and forced nine Panther turnovers.

But the Panthers did not hang their heads. They continued to fight and give their best effort.

“We played probably until about the three-minute mark before I even started looking at subbing or anything,” Yager said. “We wanted to try and keep playing like it was 0-0. We talked about that when we started the game, that we were going to play every possession like it was 0-0 and we wanted to continue to do that even though the score on the scoreboard continued to kind of go south on us.”

Cordia shot 50 percent from the field and outrebounded the Panthers, 35-25. Carroll County shot 31 percentfrom the field – 44 percent from 3-point range.

“I think our team embraced the mentality of the tournament,” Cordia head coach Rodrick Rhodes said. “I was always taught by Coach [Rick] Pitino, in tournament time is when you have your most fun. I thought the kids really embraced that. Having fun is what we need to do right now. Most of the time, teams get very tight in a tournament, and we want to be extremely loose right now, and I think the kids did that tonight.”

Rhodes played basketball for the University of Kentucky from 1992-1995.

Cordia’s Christen Cunningham led all scorers with 17 points, while Fritz Lucien scored 14 points.

Corbin and Austin Crowell led the Panthers with nine points each. Isaiah Hogan scored eight points, followed by Jacob Wise, six points; John Michael Adams and Evan McMahan, three points; Blake Kruzan, two points; and Taylor Schirmer and Justin Ray with one point.

Now that the excitement of the All “A” tournament is over, the Panthers will get back to business and focus their attention on finishing out the season strong heading into district tournament play.

“Some teams, the Class A is kind of a point in time where they have a hard time coming back and continuing with the momentum and coming back and not [being] quite as sharp,” Yager said. “We’re hoping that the momentum we had coming into this tournament from our regional tournament is going to keep building …  What a team like this does, it makes you execute as well as you possibly can. They caused us to do all kinds of things tonight that hopefully we get another opportunity to play somebody else like this (and) we will learn from (tonight) and continue improving. That’s our big goal is we want to try to get better every game and we’ve been doing that up to this point.”

Yager said the state tournament experience is something his players will never forget.

“We had (a) tremendous crowd here tonight,” Yager said. “I appreciate the community getting behind us. It was a good experience for the kids, for the student body, for everybody. This entire group never experienced something like that or seen something like that and just was tickled to death that we got this and they have a lifetime memory. That was one of the things we talked about in there, too, is they will come back and they’ll always be up there on the wall in the gym where they won the Region and so it’s been a great experience for them, and I hope the community feels like we represented them well. We had a tough team to play, but I think we did do that.”