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It was a typical, hard-fought border matchup between perennial rivals Carroll and Trimble counties when the Panthers invaded the halls of Trimble last week.
In a game where each team played well in spurts the Carroll County Panthers and Trimble County Raiders battled down to the final horn before senior guard Zach Adair sank his only basket of the night to bring the Trimble fans to their feet as time expired. Trimble had won, 49-47.
Carroll County played well enough during the middle of the contest to take a 12-point lead early in the third period. But the shining midgame of the Panthers was sandwiched between a good first quarter and a determined fourth quarter on the part of the Raiders.
Trimble roared out to a 7-0 lead before sophomore forward Trey Boles put the Panthers on the scoreboard. Two possessions later senior forward Zach Wise added another bucket to pull the Panthers within 7-4. Trimble’s defense shut down the Panthers most of the rest of the period while building an 11-4 lead on the strength of baskets by Stuart Barnes and Skiler Alexander, both juniors. Alexander drilled the first of his three baskets on the night from beyond the three-point arc to push the lead to 14-4 before Wise sank a jumper at the Carroll end of the floor to close the quarter at 14-6.
“I thought we got off to a really good start,” Trimble Head Coach Bob Lauster said. “We talked about coming out with some energy and I thought our kids did that. We were able to hit some shots early and then all of a sudden towards the end of the first quarter we started shooting the ball not as well.”
The Panthers came alive as the referee’s whistle sounded to open the second quarter of play. Junior forward John Perry scored on a putback, senior guard Ethan Stewart added four points and senior forward Tyler Grant sank a basket to pull Carroll County even at 14-14 with 5:26 remaining in the half. Stewart became a one-man wrecking machine for the Panthers scoring 15 points during the eight minute stretch to put Carroll County on top 25-21 at halftime.
“I thought the Stewart kid really got loose on us in the second quarter,” Lauster said. “He scored 15 points. We’re not going to miss coaching against him because he always seems to play awful well against us.”
Panther Head Coach Carroll Yager had words of praise for Stewart as well.
“Ethan had a really good game, attacking on offense and he made some plays defensively,” Yager said. “He was very instrumental in the things that we did both offensively and defensively. He played real well tonight.”
The Panthers continued to stifle Trimble’s offensive efforts early in the third period by rolling out to a 35-23 advantage with 5:39 to play in the quarter. Lauster called a time out to make some defensive adjustments and the Raiders came back to close the quarter, fronting 40-39.
“We had a 12-point lead there in the third quarter and then we just totally got away from what got us up by 12,” an obviously disappointed Yager said following the game. “We took some bad shots. We quit playing on the defensive end there and let them get back in it. From there it was back and forth and back and forth.”
Lauster took note of the fact that five Raiders scored during the comeback.
“I thought the key was that we had multiple guys step up and make plays,” he said. “We were struggling to score in the third quarter and I put Austin Rexroat in and he gets a couple baskets there to get it off of us being stagnant offensively. Daniel Haney made a big three-point shot. I thought that was pretty huge.”
Perry opened the fourth quarter with a basket to put the Panthers back on top but the lead changed hands again on the next possession when a trey by Alexander made the score 43-41 in Trimble’s favor.
“When we play them that’s kind of what we anticipate is that we’d have some runs and then they would have some runs,” Yager said. “Hopefully, when we’d have a run we’d do a better job of keeping the lead when we got it. But we talked about it that we were gonna have some runs, we’re going to have some lulls, they’re going to have some lulls and that’s the way it was. That’s the way all three games we’ve played with them have been—back and forth, back and forth.”
The Raiders edged out to a 45-41 advantage before a basket by Perry and free throws by sophomore center Dallas Gibson brought the Panthers back to a 45-45 deadlock with 2:59 left to play. It was another minute-and-a-half before Trimble’s Barnes weaseled between three Panther defenders to muscle another shot home for a 47-45 lead.
“Towards the end of the game there they were really denying us hard,” Lauster said. “We were having trouble getting catches it was about stepping up and making plays. Stuart Barnes hits a shot in the middle of the paint with his left hand. I’ve been trying to get him to use that now for about three years and he was able to do that so that was nice to see.”
Two possessions later Gibson sank a big basket to knot the score for the last time, 47-47, with 24 seconds showing on the clock. Trimble worked the ball to mid-court and Lauster called his final time out with 15.4 seconds left to play.
When both teams returned to the court Yager called time after seeing the Raiders line up for the inbounds play. With only three fouls whistled against the Panthers in the second half Yager’s team had three fouls to give before a fourth would send the Raiders to the line for a one-and-bonus free throw situation. His instruction was to foul but not to foul a shooter.
On the inbounds play Wise was whistled for a foul and Trimble was forced to the sidelines again to inbound the ball at mid-court. Alexander found Adair just to the right of the free throw lane and zipped him a pass. Adair rattled the ball through the nets and Carroll was just stepping out to inbound the basketball when the final horn sent shock waves through the bleachers.
“Obviously, there at the end I thought Skiler did a really good job of being patient enough to find the open man and that’s hard to do when you’ve got a lot of pressure on and you try to throw the ball inbounds,” Lauster said. “I think he may have inbounded that thing at about 4.98 seconds. A seam opened up. Zach flashed through the seam and was able to get a catch and then he made a play.”
Stewart was the only Panther to score in double figures with 21 points. However, four Panthers—Boles, Gibson, Perry and Wise—scored six points each.
“Zach really played hard and took the ball to the basket well,” Yager said of Wise. “We had a couple people get in foul trouble and that didn’t help us. We got some good minutes out of Brady Hill when he came in there in the second quarter. He did a really good job of defending Webb and helping out. He played pretty smart. I thought he did a good job for us when he came in.”
“Coach Yager’s done a good job with those kids,” Lauster said. “If they had a foul to give it would have been obviously a good strategy to use because then that would have burned the clock up and we had no time outs left. Kids don’t always do what you ask them to do and they get caught up in the moment because they’re human.”
Webb topped Trimble’s scoring effort with 15 points. Alexander added 11 while Rexroat and Craig Ward chipped in five apiece.
The Panthers were back on the road Friday at Dry Ridge, Ky., and suffered a 74-70 loss in overtime to the Grant County Braves.