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Injury-riddled Panthers nearly pull MSC upset

Injury-riddled Panthers nearly pull MSC upset
Injury-riddled Panthers nearly pull MSC upset
Corydon Central's Calvin Saulman shoots over a defender's arms in Saturday's contest. (Photo by Brian Smith)

Going into Saturday night’s Mid-Southern Conference battle between Corydon Central and Charlestown, there couldn’t have been two boys’ teams going in more opposite directions. Charlestown, carrying a six-game winning streak and a 21-point win over Austin the night before versus a Corydon Central team that had dropped five in a row, including its own 21-point loss to Eastern (Pekin) Friday.
Yet from the opening tip to the final second, the Panthers gave Charlestown all they could handle, leading throughout the first half before the two teams struggled to maintain a significant advantage in the final 16 minutes. Charlestown held on to a 62-60 lead in the final 10 seconds to escape Corydon with a win despite a last-second 30-foot shot from Calvin Saulman that drew front iron.
‘I am proud of the fact that I thought we were resilient tonight, I thought we played hard and competed on every play,’ Corydon Central coach Jamie Kolkmeier said. ‘We hadn’t done that in a while. We can be good if we compete. We did that early (in the season), we didn’t in the middle, and hopefully we can do that at the end.’
Saulman scored 19 of his game-high 30 points in the first half, helping Corydon Central build a surprising 35-29 advantage. In the second half, Charlestown gained fire on the offensive end. Back-to-back 3-pointers and a Clayton Merschbrock put-back drew the Pirates even at 37-all.
Sophomore Garett Ross kept the Panthers alive during the run, reeling off nine of the Panthers’ 12 points in the third quarter.
In the final period, Charlestown couldn’t stretch its lead beyond five points. Dylan Harl cut the lead to two with a long trey, but Charlestown answered back with a Chris Chastain long ball. Saulman was able to pull Corydon Central to within one on two different occasions, but the Panthers couldn’t hit the big shot to forge ahead.
Corydon Central went 0-for-3 in the final 1:50 from the field, all solid looks at the hoop. The Pirates were unable to extend their lead at that time, making just one of four attempts at the foul line.
Corydon Central’s play against the MSC and sectional foe gave Kolkmeier plenty of reasons to feel the team can turn the corner and erase its six-game losing streak soon.
‘Just have the confidence and playing hard,’ he said. ‘We just took too many plays off in this stretch of six to eight games.’
Defensively, Corydon Central (5-11, 2-5 MSC) put in a big effort, forcing the senior-laden Pirates into 25 turnovers, mainly through an active zone.
‘We played a lot harder in our zone than we had all year,’ Kolkmeier said. ‘That is the key point right there. I thought we rebounded well. They are going to be a tough team to keep off the glass; they’re a great rebounding team. Tonight they only got one offensive rebound in the first half.’
Adjustments have been coming around for the Panthers as well, dealing with the foot injury to freshman sensation Brandon Dunaway. Against Charlestown, the Panthers were also without back-up guard Chris Nichols, who sat out with a day-to-day ankle injury.
‘That was a big strength for us,’ Kolkmeier said of having Dunaway on the court. ‘We didn’t adjust at first, to being without him. Now guys have come into their roles, we’ve shortened their rotations. Hopefully we can get him back at the end of the year. With the other guys getting better, hopefully he can come back and still knock down shots.’
Kolkmeier said he was impressed that his six-man rotation played well throughout the night, praising the efforts of Isaac Brown, Jeremy Smith and Adam Ward’s abilities to slow down Charlestown’s powerful inside game.
Merschbrock led Charlestown with 23 points followed by Jordan Copeland’s 12.
Saulman knocked down four 3-pointers as part of his 30-point output. Harl and Ross added 11 each, followed by Ward’s eight points.
Charlestown (13-3, 6-1 MSC) trails MSC leader Salem by a game with a Feb. 15 match-up looming as the likely deciding factor. Corydon Central will next visit Austin (4-12, 0-7 MSC) tomorrow (Thursday).