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Austin wins MSC title bout vs. Panthers

Hoops analysts who believed Austin was a one-dimensional ball club need only ask for a tape from Thursday night’s game with Corydon Central.
Indiana Mr. Basketball-candidate Anthony Winchester led his host Eagles in scoring with 29 points, grabbed 16 rebounds and handed out four assists, but it was the play of fellow seniors Brian Johnson and Tyler Stallings that proved to be the deciding factor in Austin’s 84-69 Mid-Southern Conference title game victory over the Panthers.
Were it not for the outstanding games by Johnson (24 points, 11 rebounds) and Stallings (15 points, three three-pointers), Corydon Central’s matchup this Friday night against Silver Creek would have likely decided the conference champ.
Instead, Austin’s win, as well as a Scottsburg “W” over Silver Creek on Thursday, solidified the Eagles’ first-ever outright M.S.C. title. Austin tied for first with Silver Creek and Scottsburg in 1998-99 and were in a 5-way scrum for the title in 1980-81 with Brownstown, Charlestown, North Harrison and Silver Creek.
The Eagles’ point total was the second-highest given up by Corydon this year. Scottsburg’s 86 in an overtime loss for the Panthers was the only higher mark given up by Corydon, which has a defensive average of 62 points.
“We had excellent play by everybody,” Austin coach Scott Matthews said. “It was a game where Tyler Stallings got us going by hitting some open shots early. He’d been struggling in the last month. Brian Johnson had an outstanding game, and he’d been in a little slump, too. So we got two big things that we hadn’t been getting lately.
“Corydon’s an outstanding ball club. They handle the ball really well. The main things that I thought gave Corydon problems tonight was that we were able to play the entire court, and we were able to stay in front of (Kyle) Savely. He keys all of their perimeter shooting by penetrating and shooting or kicking it out.”
The Panthers (12-4, 5-2 M.S.C.) never let the game get too far out of reach after Austin (14-4, 7-1 M.S.C.) had opened the game on an 11-4 run. The Eagles owned a 20-14 cushion at the first stop and were up 30-21 on a Julian Stallings jumper with 3:50 left before intermission.
With their backs to the wall, Corydon’s boys mounted a furious rally on a free throw by Josh Pruett, two frees by Jeff Conrad, a deuce by Craig Keinsley and a three by Pruett. Kyle Savely sank two free throws with 1:48 left to bring Corydon within one, 32-31.
After an Austin turnover, Corydon had a chance to take the lead but coughed the ball up. Shawn Barrett raced down the court with Conrad in tow and went up for a lay-up. Conrad hacked his opponent as the basket went through the hoop and he was whistled for an intentional foul, sending the packed house into a frenzy. Barrett nailed both free throws, and on Austin’s inbound pass, Johnson was fouled after a bucket. He missed the free throw, but the six-point trip for Austin turned out to be a punch in the ol’ breadbasket: The Panthers never got closer than six points the rest of the way.
“Corydon’s got a bunch of scrappy players. Everyone is little, but they play really hard. Coming into the game, we knew that they were going to focus on me, so it was important that everyone else stepped up. I thought Brian Johnson had an excellent game for us,” Winchester said.
“When I was a freshman, we won (conference) but we were tied with Silver Creek. This is our first out-right title ever. This is awesome to win it, but we know that there are other goals that we want to reach. Winning this doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll do good in ‘the dance’.”
In the past, Corydon coach Randy Gianfagna has been content to allow Winchester to get his points while holding everyone else below their average. In the previous three matchups, Austin’s star had scored seven, 26 and 39. This season, Gianfagna changed that philosophy and for good reason: Winchester averages 35.7 points a contest and is the second-leading scorer in the state.
“In the past, we thought we’d let Winchester get whatever he could get and hold everybody else down. This year, we thought he could get 60 if we didn’t take the ball out of his hands,” Corydon’s coach said. “Johnson’s the one who really hurt us. But they are a really good team, they were on their home floor, they are senior-laden, and they wanted the championship. Johnson just had too big of a game for us to win.”
Austin shot 33 of 52 from the floor, including a 16-24 clip in the second half. The Eagles were 6-14 from beyond the arc, hit 12 of 17 free throws and out-rebounded Corydon, 33-27. The visitors were held below 50 percent shooting for only the third time this season as they hit 22 of 53 tries, including 7-20 from three-point land. Corydon drained 18 of 24 frees and won the turnover battle, 10-17.
Savely paced Corydon with 17 points, including a 9-9 night from the charity stripe. Pruett had 11 and speedy guard Quentin Combs came through with 10. Keinsley and Engleman both scored eight, Nevin Dunaway had seven, and Conrad and Michael Emily had four apiece.