|Tue, Mar 11, 2014 01:29 PM
January 08, 2014 | 01:08 PM
Since coming to the PSC Holiday Classic starting with the 2005 tournament, the championship title has eluded the Corydon Central boys' basketball team.
Elevating the golden basketball-shaped trophy finally happened for the Panthers last Monday when Class 3A No. 5 Corydon Central won a battle of unbeatens against 3A No. 12 Heritage Hills, 72-58.
"It's great to be the first team from Corydon to do it," said Corydon Central's Bronson Kessinger, a junior who finished with 27 points and nine rebounds in the final. "Everyone knows we are for real and compete with anybody. I expected it to be close the entire game, but we played well down the stretch."
Panthers coach Jamie Kolkmeier said the team play his squad displayed throughout the tournament and the early part of the season led to winning three games in four days. Two of the wins came against previously undefeated teams (Crawford County and Heritage Hills).
Corydon Central's Grant Robinson, above, lets loose his emotions after converting a basket while getting fouled in the first half against Heritage Hills last Monday. (click for larger version)
"We haven't been able, in the past, to put three games together, and we did that this year," Kolkmeier said of the PSC. "All of our guys played really well. Bronson was a tough match-up, and Brayden Lander had a great tournament throughout. Timothy and Tommy (Wiseman) played great, and Grant Robinson came off the bench and was strong for us. Mitchell (Frederick) did some good things inside, too. The biggest strength of our team right now is team unity, and that's what we have to do to be successful."
Playing the championship game in Reo, on the floor of South Spencer in front of a packed house, both teams came out of the gate with big blows.
Striking with the deep ball, Heritage Hills couldn't seem to miss from 3-point land. All six first-quarter field goals by the Patriots came from downtown with Devon Merder, Gavin Schaefer and Tyler Ward nailing two each.
"They couldn't miss," Kessinger said. "Everything they threw up went in. We were trying to contest shots, but they just made them. We talked about continuing to contest shots and they'd eventually quit making them."
To offset the aerial attack, Corydon Central fed the post and created five first-quarter turnovers. Sixteen of the 19 scored by the Panthers came by way of 6-foot-7 Kessinger. Following a Lander field goal, the Panthers knotted the game at nine when Kessinger swooped in for a loose ball to two-hand slam a put-back.
Providing a spark off the bench, Robinson came up with a steal and dish to Kessinger to give the Panthers their first lead, 14-12. The hot hand for Kessinger continued, stepping out for a triple from the top of the key.
Although Heritage Hills continued to make 3-pointers, Kessinger had the exclamation point on the opening quarter with a one-handed jam with authority from the right wing.
"We came out with a lot of intensity, but we didn't come out with the normal early lead we usually get. But, we hung in there," Tommy Wiseman said. "When they hit shots, we came down the floor and fed the big man."
"The nice part was they hit all those 3-pointers in the first quarter and we still had the lead," Kolkmeier said. "We did a better job in the second quarter on contesting them a little better on the 3."
One of Lander's team-best seven assists came early in the second quarter with a lob to Tommy Wiseman for a lay-in. Up by five, Heritage Hills scored back-to-back buckets to knot the game at 23.
It would be the last tie of the night, as Corydon Central went on a 13-4 run to close the opening half. A Frederick steal turned into a Timothy Wiseman field goal along with Lander scoring on a put-back.
The half ended with the spark-plug off the bench, Robinson, converting an old-fashioned 3-point play. He'd finish the game with three points, four assists and two steals.
"Grant is pretty quick and a competitive kid," Kolkmeier said. "He came back after last year and showed he can make a lot of plays for us."
The 36-27 halftime lead by the Panthers only grew wider in the second half.
A 14-2 start to the third quarter broke the game open. Breaking the Heritage Hills press, Corydon Central was able to get many looks near the basket. Tommy Wiseman, after dealing with first-half foul trouble, scored 11 of his 13 points in the third.
"It's about shot selection," Tommy said. "We're playing good defense and not taking a bunch of 3s. A lot of our shots are inside of 10 feet. Our rebounding has been big for us, too. It's all about teamwork, working together."
Frederick's bucket with less than three minutes to play in the third gave the Panthers a 50-31 lead.
Merder, a talented player for the Patriots who scored 20 points to go with eight rebounds, didn't let his team go quietly. He knocked down a late 3-pointer in the frame to cut Corydon Central's led to 13, 56-43.
The Merder spurt didn't bother the Panthers. With another run of scoring, an 11-2 start to the fourth dashed the hopes of a Heritage Hills comeback.
Unselfish play by the Panthers was key in the championship game with top assist man Lander leading the way with seven of the team's 20. Tommy Wiseman had five assists to go with his seven rebounds.
Timothy Wiseman was strong at the line, making 7 of 8 free throws to go toward his 13-point game. Frederick finished with nine points, while Lander had eight.
"Another strength is we have a lot of different guys that can score the ball," Kolkmeier said. "It was different guys at different positions that can attack off the dribble. Brayden, Tommy and Timothy did a good job off the dribble today, then that opens it up for Mitchell and Bronson even more."
As a team, the Panthers shot 57 percent from the field.
Typically a high-scoring fast-paced Heritage Hills team was held to its lowest scoring output of the season. Ward (14 points) and Schaefer (13) reached double-figure scoring while point guard Sam Scherry dished seven assists.
"The first two games (of the tournament) I don't think we played so well defensively, and I had real question marks on how we were going to be defensively coming into the season," Kolkmeier said. "We graduated some of the best defensive players we've had in the program last year. We're a little bit better than I thought we would be, but we'll have to keep getting better."
Continuing the team unity is something Kolkmeier wants to stay steady.
"These guys have a good understanding right now," he said. "If we stay unified and together, we can continue to get better."
Winning the PSC title is something the players wanted.
"Kolkmeier has always mentioned teams haven't been able to get it done here," Tommy said. "There have been good Corydon teams play in this and not get it. I think coach was getting anxious."
The Panthers seek to continue the run of play Friday when they travel to Floyd Central. The next day they are slated to play undefeated Covington Catholic (Ky.) in the Hall of Fame Challenge Cup at Freedom Hall in Louisville at approximately 3 p.m.
Heritage Hills 18 9 16 15 58
Corydon Central 19 17 20 16 72
Heritage Hills (5-1) Merder 20, Ward 14, Schaefer 13, Crane 5, Scherry 4, Minto 2.
Corydon Central (7-0) Kessinger 27, To. Wiseman 13, Ti. Wiseman 11, Frederick 9, Lander 8, Robinson 3, Simler 1.
3-point goals Heritage Hills 11 (Merder 4, Ward 4, Schaefer 2, Crane); Corydon Central 2 (Kessinger, To. Wiseman).