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The Panthers persevered Saturday in a district-rival battle against Eminence, coming back from a huge first-quarter deficit to ultimately win, 65-53.
“I was just really proud of our effort, and I think that really shows the character and the type of players that we have,” head coach Carroll Yager said. “They really rose to the occasion and played well. I thought we executed well. I was pleased with really every phase of the game tonight.”
The Warriors came in to the Carroll County High School gymnasium with something to prove. The Panthers defeated them three times last season, including ousting them from the 31st District tournament, and the Warriors wanted to head back to Henry County with a victory.
Things started out well for the visitors. They scored on every trip down the floor and only allowed Carroll to get off one shot per possession, building a 14-0 lead in the first three minutes.
But then the shots finally began to fall for the Panthers. Dakota Corbin was fouled after an offensive rebound and put back attempt at the 4:37 mark and hit one of two free throws. That set off a 9-0 run for Carroll to end the quarter.
However, in the midst of that run, emotions began to run a little too high.
With under a minute and a half to go, Corbin was heading in for a layup and was closely defended by an Eminence player. He missed, but thought he had gotten fouled.
Back on the defense, it is unclear what exactly happened next.
It appeared that Eminence senior Daishon Moore may have been attempting to set a pick for his teammate, junior point guard Jalen Dixie, on Carroll’s Brandon Stewart near the half court line. There was some pushing and shoving, before Moore came out of the cluster after Corbin. He threw two punches, both of which missed, before the two went at each other and had to be separated by the referees, coaches and players.
Corbin was corralled near the Panthers bench, and Eminence coaches took Moore to the visitors locker room. Both the home crowd and the visitors were in a fury about the situation, as the gym radiated with tense energy.
School administrators called the police, but they were already en route for their regularly scheduled assignment monitoring the ballgames. They were delayed due to responding to other calls for service. Four police officers - two from Carrollton Police Department and two from Carroll County Sheriff’s Office - arrived soon after the incident.
Both Yager and Eminence head coach Chris Nethery met with the referees at the scorers table.
“The referee said both players threw punches, and throwing a punch is automatic ejection,” Yager said. “Both players were ejected, and, since they were both ejected, they called it a double foul and went with the possession arrow to get the ball out of bounds.”
Yager said he is not sure what exactly happened and did not want to comment until he could watch the film.
Because of the ejection, both players have been suspended; however, the length of time is unknown. Carroll County Athletic Director Paul Stone said the school has filed Corbin’s reinstatement paperwork and is waiting for the Kentucky High School Athletic Association to rule on it.
After the incident, Yager said he reminded his players that they were here to play basketball. He told them that things may get a little rough and the officials were probably going to call the game a little bit closer to make sure they keep control of it. “‘If something happens, don’t retaliate,’ and I’m sure Coach Nethery said the same thing. Both of us were trying to make sure the game was played clean and that nothing else happened.”
The first quarter ended with the Panthers down, 14-9. Dixie ended their run with an early 3-pointer, 17-9.
Down 24-11, Jay Damron scored off a cut inside the lane with 5:20 to go in the half. That kicked off a 23-4 Panther offensive surge to end the half, up 37-28.
While both crowds kept the energy high through most of the remainder, the players did not let their emotions get the better of them. With seconds to go in the first half, Carroll’s John Michael Adams accidentally tripped up Dixie and was called for a foul. Adams immediately turned around and helped Dixie up off the floor, showing good sportsmanship between both squads.
The Warriors did not give up, pulling within three points off a runner in the lane by Dixie early in the fourth quarter. But the Panthers held on and were able to run out the clock late with patience and good enough free throw shooting. They hit 21-29 from the stripe, 6-10 in the fourth.
Dixie led all scorers with 28 points.
Trey Boles led the Panthers with 20 points and seven rebounds. Jay Damron also hit double-figures with 13 points. Stewart scored nine points and dished out five assists in his return to the starting lineup after his wrist injury.
Also scoring for the Panthers were Jacob Wise, eight points, Adams, six points, Patrick Booth, four points, Corbin, three points, and Isaiah Hogan, two points.
With Corbin out for at least their road match against Trimble County Tuesday, Yager said it is just another obstacle his team will have to overcome.
“I am so proud of these guys,” he said. “They have got so much heart and so much character. There’s been so many times when they could have just laid down and gave up, but they have continued to show what kind of people they are.”