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Pruett’s bucket at 1.4 rescues Corydon, 63-61

Pruett’s bucket at 1.4 rescues Corydon, 63-61
Pruett’s bucket at 1.4 rescues Corydon, 63-61
Corydon Central senior forward Josh Pruett races down the court after a Salem turnover with 1.4 seconds left in Friday night's Mid-Southern Conference battle. Pruett hit the game-winning shot over three defenderes as time was running out to give the Panthers a 63-61 win. (Photo by Alan Stewart)

Corydon Central’s boys basketball team still isn’t quite back to the top-notch play seen prior to the holiday break, but as long as the wins keep on coming and style-points aren’t recorded, it’s unlikely many folks will complain.
The Panthers’ latest victory came here Friday night, when senior forward Josh Pruett canned a seven-foot jumper in the lane over three Salem defenders as time was running out. At first, most everyone in the arena thought the hosts had pulled out a 63-61 win, but an official put 1.4 seconds back on the clock to give Salem one last gasp.
The inbounds pass, however, sailed from one baseline to the other untouched, and Corydon had possession under its own basket. Panthers senior Craig Keinsley was fouled on the pass-in and missed both free throws. The Lions were unable to connect on a 80-foot heave at the buzzer. This time it was official: Panthers win, 63-61.
Corydon Central (8-3, 4-1 Mid-Southern Conference) will have a tough road this weekend as it travels Friday night to No. 6-ranked (Class 2A) Paoli, led by Indiana All-Star candidate Evan Seacat and his 24.7 ppg. average.
On Saturday, the Panthers will stage Homecoming against an ol’ rival. Former Floyd Central skipper and Hall of Famer Joe Hinton brings his Providence Pioneers to town. Both games begin at 6 p.m. with the varsity teams taking to the floor at about 7:30.
In the chase for the Mid-Southern Conference title, Corydon Central has three games left, with two being against the only two clubs remaining with undefeated records: at Austin on Feb. 7 and hosting Silver Creek on Feb. 15. The Eagles and Dragons will square off on Jan. 29, however, leaving the door wide open for at least a share of M.S.C. honors if Corydon can win out in conference play.
Pruett, who was held scoreless in the first half but ended with a team-high 15 points, said the plan drawn up for the final 40 seconds of play was to take one shot — unless his team got a lay-up.
“We got a little scatterbrained there at the end, and I looked up and saw four seconds left and just shot it,” Pruett said. “It was a great feeling. I thought the game was over. When they put the time back up, I still felt like we were still going to win.
“(Coach Randy Gianfagna) let me come out of that first half myself. I just didn’t show up in the first half. I felt like I let my teammates down, and I let myself down. We all stepped up as a team in the second half and really turned it on.”
The Panthers were 11-35 (31 percent) from the floor in the first half and 13-24 (54 percent) in the second, including a 6-7 effort beyond the arc. They needed every bit of shooting touch they could muster to rally from a 10-point deficit at the break and a 53-48 shortfall with 5:41 remaining in the game.
A three by Kyle Savely and a bucket by Michael Savely on an inbounds play gave Corydon a 46-45 lead after three quarters.
Corydon was out front for the first time since the opening period when Salem’s gunner, Guenther, had a three and a rare four-point play to give the Lions (3-9, 1-2 M.S.C.) an 18-15 lead.
Salem’s Miller hit a shot inside, followed by a Corydon basket by Nevin Dunaway and back-to-back threes by Guenther.
Down 53-48, Gianfagna called a timeout to settle his troops. The move worked: Pruett hit the second of three three-pointers, and Zach Engleman drilled a trey to put Corydon back on top, 54-53.
From there, it was a free-throw swap meet to the 1:20 mark, when Keinsley sank the first of two frees to tie it at 59-59. He missed the second, Dunaway rebounded and missed the put-back. Keinsley came in from the left side for the rebound and scored to give Corydon a two-point advantage
Salem called a timeout and got a deuce from Guenther with 40 seconds left. Corydon called timeout and Gianfagna came up with a plan.
“We had two different plays we were going to run, depending on how aggressive they were. We were going to go backdoor if they were really aggressive, and then a play we designed that has three or four options out of it,” Gianfagna said.
“(Salem) did a good job and we weren’t quite as together there at the end and Pruett kind of bailed us out of it to be honest. That wasn’t the play we had set up. That shot was his own doing.
“We’ve been really working hard on last-second situations and things, and we need to be a little more definitive. Kyle needs to come get the ball in that situation, and I told him that after the game. A lot of teams last year looked at Quentin (Combs) in last-second situations. (Savely) needed to go out and get the ball there at the end. Pruett just bailed us out.”
Pruett had 15 points with three triples, Savely 13, Keinsley nine, Engleman seven, and Emily five. Combs added four points, including two big free throws in the fourth quarter, and Jeff Conrad scored two on a first-quarter bucket.
Corydon, a paltry 8-19 at the free throw line, outrebounded the visitors 38-36 and forced four more turnovers, 13-17. In the third quarter, when the Panthers made their run, they held a 9-4 rebound advantage and outshot the visitors on field goals, 8-15 to 4-11.
“In the first half, our defense stunk,” Gianfagna said. “It was a lot of things. We didn’t put pressure down the court to stop their fast breaks. We were missing shots, and they were fast-breaking us. Normally, we do that to other teams, and we were having it done to us. They hit a couple of threes, but a lot of their points were in the paint. Those things can’t happen. When we did put pressure on them, they always had an outlet man. It just wasn’t five guys playing good defense. I didn’t think our shots in the first half were bad; they just weren’t falling. I wasn’t worried with the offense. We just needed to get some stops.”
Salem’s Dwayne Guenther led the charge for his team with 31 points, four threes and a nearly perfect night from the line at 7-8. The team was 9-10 at the charity stripe.
“He’s a good player. They are starting to play better now. They had some suspensions early in the year, and they are starting to get together. I told our guys coming into the game that they can’t look at Salem’s record. They played Scottsburg to a nine-point game the other night.
“I didn’t think we played particularly well, but we won and that’s the key,” Gianfagna said.