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The Lady Panthers tried their best to send seniors Jill Butcher, Kyndal Curry and Tasha Hunter out with a win on Senior Night Friday. Unfortunately, when your opponent hits 13 of 29 3-pointers, it is very difficult to pull out a victory. Walton-Verona (20-8) scorched the nets from behind the arc, but Carroll County (15-12) was able to keep the game close, down only two points with a little more than 3 minutes to go in the fourth quarter. However, the Lady Bearcats pulled away at the end with a final score of 58-50.
“You can see why Walton-Verona has won 20 games. They shot it absolutely incredibly tonight,” Carroll County head coach Randy Mefford said. “I take the blame for this loss because I had them lay back off of them, knowing how good they were on the inside.” Lady Bearcat senior Kelli Dixon dropped 29 points on the Lady Panthers in their previous meeting in the All-A Classic, but was able to hold her to just eight points in this contest.
Things did not look good early on, as Walton-Verona jumped out to an early 12-2 lead with 3:41 left in the first quarter. The Lady Panthers did not hit a field goal until a drive to the lane by junior Hannah Devine resulted in two points with 1:39 to go in the first.
The Lady Bearcats picked up their seventh team foul with 6:56 to go in the half, putting the Lady Panthers on the line for the remainder of the half. The home team capitalized on this opportunity to put the Walton-Verona frontcourt on the bench and began hitting their jumpers, pulling within six points at the half, 28-22.
Both teams shot well from the free throw line, with the Lady Panthers hitting 16 of 20 and the Lady Bearcats knocking down 11 of 12.
Carroll County cut the margin to three points after five straight by Butcher. However, Walton-Verona’s junior guard Kara Taulbee answered with a 3-pointer to make the score 39-33 heading into the final quarter of play. She led her team with 17 points.
The two teams traded baskets for the first half of the fourth. The lead was cut to two points, but the Lady Bearcats stepped and nailed back-to-back three-pointers to keep the game out of reach.
Devine led Carroll County with 21 points, while Hunter also scored in double digits with 11 points. Butcher scored eight points, while Curry scored seven points and junior Nikki Hill contributed three points.
The Lady Panthers were without junior forward Andrea Hardesty, who injured her knee in the away match with Martha Layne Collins. Mefford said he hopes she will be able to play in the district game Tuesday.
“I was really proud of my three seniors tonight, playing in their last home game,” Mefford said. “I know they feel awful down there [in the locker room] right now; I saw some teary eyes down there just because of the way the game went. They wanted to win so bad because, as I told them, they’ve kind of been the backbone of our program the last three years, and they felt bad. But I tried to explain to them, sometimes you do everything pretty well and the other team just does it a bit better, and that’s what happened tonight, they just made shots tonight.”
Mefford said he has coached Butcher, Curry and Hunter since they were in eighth grade, and they have all grown so much as players over that time period. “Kyndal really has learned how to play more than one position, and Tasha the same way too. Their ball handling, passing, shooting have all improved,” he said. “Jill, (who) didn’t play last year but she played the previous two years, has really come in and been a really big help to our program this year in a place where we needed someone because we’re a little bit thin on that junior class and sophomore class; I’m subbing in a lot of freshman. I’m really pleased with what she has contributed to our program this year. The three of them have just been a joy to coach.”
Carroll County competed in the 31st District game last night against Gallatin County at Henry County, however the results were unavailable by press time. The winner will play in the championship game against the winner of Owen County and Henry County on Friday at 7 p.m. Those competing in the championship will also move on to play in the 8th Region Tournament.