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Panthers squeak past NH

Corydon Central led by as many as seven points in the third quarter of last night’s Class 3A sectional opener at Madison, then had to hold off a last-ditch effort by rival North Harrison to advance to the second round.
The Panthers (15-7) earned a closer-than-expected 49-47 victory over North and move on to face sectional-favorite Madison in Friday night’s first semi-final game at 6 p.m.
The matchup pits the two hottest teams in the sectional against each other: Madison (18-3) has won 10 straight games while Corydon has scored a victory in nine of its past 10 outings.
In last night’s game, Corydon jumped out to an early six-point lead before North’s Tyler Brunner drained a triple to slice the deficit in half midway through the first period.
The Panthers, who led 13-10 at the first stop, seemed to get caught up in North Harrison’s deliberate pace, allowing the Cougars to stay within striking distance.
Midway through the second period, Corydon’s Calvin Saulman hit a three after a North Harrison turnover, but the Cougars bounced back to keep the deficit at one.
Lucas Taylor had a couple of field goals towards the end of the half to put his team up by five at the intermission, 22-17.
The two clubs stayed together through most of the third period, which ended with Corydon still leading, 32-28, after a Cody Johnson triple with :30 left.
The Cougars had a brief 6-3 burst, then swapped baskets with Corydon.
With 2:40 left in the game, Johnson hit an 8-footer to cap an 8-3 run by the Cougars, giving his team its first lead of the game.
After that, Matt Key had a tip-in to put Corydon back out front. Taylor converted two free throws to make it a 3-point game with just 46 seconds left.
Josh Kidd, who pumped in 14 points and had 12 rebounds, scored for the Cougars, then Saulman hit two frees, the first of six straight hit by the Panthers in the waning seconds of the contest.
A trey by Jordan Byrne with two seconds left was all North Harrison could muster as Corydon posted the victory.
Taylor was the BMOC for the Panthers, scoring 18 points and answering the call to duty each time North Harrison made a run.
Scott Decker, Calvin Saulman and Chad Backherms each tossed in eight points apiece, while Key came through with seven points.
Corydon was 18 of 45 from the field and went 8-9 at the foul stripe.
After Kidd’s 14 points, North was led by Johnson’s 10, Brunner’s seven and five apiece by Byrne and Jim Bob Schuler.
North Harrison’s field goal shooting was nearly identical to Corydon’s at 19 of 41, however the team only shot as many frees as the Panthers made, going 5-8.
Another big stat in the game was turnovers, where the Panthers committed just six, while forcing 13.
The Cougars finish with their worst season ever under the post-consolidation North Harrison banner at 3-19.
The previous low for number of wins in a season were a pair of 5-16 campaigns under former skipper Dave Skinner.
North Harrison has a 3-10 record in sectional tournament play in the four-class era, and hasn’t won a sectional since 1996.
— The host Cubs, who were 63-59 winners over Silver Creek last night, knocked off Corydon in their Dec. 16 matchup, 61-53.
The second game, which should begin around 7:30 p.m., pits Scottsburg against Salem.
Information for this story by Wade Bell, Clarion News, and Alan Stewart, The Corydon Democrat.
A complete story from the CC-NH contest ‘ as well as the remainder of Corydon’s games at the Madison Sectional ‘ will appear in next week’s edition of this newspaper.