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Poor rebounding and turnovers hindered Carroll County’s ability to execute their game plan against visiting district foe Henry County, leading to a 67-44 blowout Tuesday night.
“I didn’t think we executed things very well, both offensively and defensively,” head coach Carroll Yager said. “I thought they played harder than us. One of our strengths has been rebounding, and they out-rebounded us.”
Henry County (1-2) held a 32-27 advantage on the boards, but completely dominated in offensive rebounds, 18-8. “That goes back to execution,” Yager said. “We didn’t do a good job of blocking out; we didn’t do a good job of going and getting the ball.”
Yager said his team’s strategy going in was to out-rebound their opponent, to take the ball to the rim and to force their opponent to shoot outside shots. While the Panthers (2-2) did drive the ball on occasion, it was not enough in his opinion. The Wildcats shot just 4 for 18 from 3-point range, but the offensive rebounds were ultimately a huge determining factor.
The game started sloppy for both clubs, but Henry County jumped out to a 19-11 lead at the end of the first quarter. Carroll picked up the intensity offensively in the second quarter and got to the free throw line, hitting 9-10. However, Henry County still led by double digits heading into the locker room, 36-23.
Carroll cut the lead to six points, 41-35, on a three-pointer by senior Ethan Stewart about midway through the third quarter. However, the Panthers would turn the ball over on their next three possessions, allowing the Wildcats to build their lead back up to 10 and never look back.
At times, however, the Panthers’ worst enemy was themselves. The team struggled getting the ball up the floor consistently against the Wildcats’ pressure defense. They committed 22 turnovers in the game, the majority from errant passes and having the ball stolen from them in the backcourt.
“We made some very poor decisions handling the ball,” Yager said. “Our ball handling has been something that we have been working on from the very beginning. We realize that’s an area that is not one of our strengths and they exploited that tonight.”
Junior point guard John Perry exited the game early in the second half with an injury to his finger, leaving point guard duties to Stewart and freshman Austin Crowell. Yager said he may have a point guard by committee rather than a true point until he can get somebody developed.
“… When we’re trying to develop them, you want to try to get to the point where the games are easier than the practices,” he said, “and right now the games are a little more difficult than practice as far as our ball handling because we can’t simulate what we’re going to see in a game, per se.”
While there are three seniors on the team, the majority of the Panthers are very young, which Yager said showed at times during the game.
“When you’ve got some young players and a young team—we’re really fairly inexperienced—you’re gonna have some nights where you look real good and some nights where you don’t look so good.”
Stewart led the Panthers with 15 points, followed by Dallas Gibson with 12, Zach Wise with six, Perry with six, Tyler Grant with four, Trey Boles with two and Crowell with one.