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Panthers ready to work, improve in ‘11-’12 season

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By Kristin Beck

The Carroll County High School Panthers basketball team returns two of its top three leading scorers from last season in juniors Dallas Gibson and Trey Boles. However, the majority of the team lacks experience, and the schedule does not vary much from last season’s in which the Panthers finished 5-21, winless in 31st District play.

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Despite the uphill climb facing his team, head coach Carroll Yager remains optimistic. “Right now I think they’re buying in to ‘what is my role and how can I help this team doing what I can do?” Yager said. “I think that if we can keep the mental framework that we have right now, by the end of the year, we’re going to be a pretty good team.”

With the skill set of forwards Gibson and Boles and the recent acquisition of 6 foot 5 inch – 6 foot 6 inch senior center John Walls to the team, Yager anticipates his offense leaning on high-low plays and interior post moves.

Carroll County will dress four seniors this season: Evan Mefford, John Perry, Travis Ellis and Walls. Ellis and Walls have not played since their sophomore year.

Yager said Walls “has a lot of potential. How much he can develop between now and the end of the year remains to be seen, but he has a chance to really help us.”

Ellis is becoming known for his outside shooting. “He may be the best shooter we have,” the head coach said.

Mefford and Perry both played varsity minutes last season. Mefford’s specialty is his strong defensive play, Yager said. He described Perry as being a good jumper with long arms, who can shoot both inside and outside.

“Each player developing is going to be really important and that’s why we keep talking about the commitment to continuous progress. (That) is big and right now they’re really accepting that.”

In order to have a good team this season, Yager said the individual players will need to commit to improving and to contributing their talents to the team concept.

Better play should also lead to more wins for the Panthers this season. “At this point, from where we were last year, if we can win more games than we lose, I think that would be a pretty successful season at this point,” Yager said.

Of course, the team also aspires to win the North American Stainless tournament held at home, the Class A and the 31st District tournament, the head coach said. The Panthers also want to shoot at least 68 percent from the free throw line as a team, commit 12 turnovers or less per game and out-rebound each opponent they play.

The annual NAS Holiday Tournament will be held Dec. 21-23, with the Panthers playing Silver Grove in their first game. Carroll County will also be playing in a holiday classic at Beth Haven in Louisville Dec. 29-31. Yager said when he committed to the event, he thought it would be in a tournament format. Since then, more teams have accepted the invitation to play putting the total at 10, making it more like a showcase than a tournament. However, he said each team is guaranteed to play three games.

In the Class A Tournament, the Panthers drew a bye and will play the winner of Owen and Gallatin on Friday, Jan. 20.

The Panthers opened the season on the road against Dayton Tuesday, however results were unavailable by press time. They will take on border rival Trimble County on Dec. 1 away before coming home Dec. 5 for a matchup with Williamstown.

The team scrimmaged Western Hills on Saturday, Nov. 19, and Yager said he was pleased with how his team is coming along. “We did a lot of things really well. We’ve got a lot of developing left to do, and we have to improve decision making and things like that, but for the first time actual scrimmaging with this group in a competitive situation, I thought they did pretty good.”