Towering Hatchets too tall
It was hard to find shots over Washington’s trio of bigs. Keeping the tallest of three off the free-throw line was even tougher.
Corydon Central reached its first regional final since 2003 Saturday night after knocking out No. 8 Sullivan Saturday morning in overtime. In the final, the Panthers had the dubious task of tackling defending Class 3A state champion and No. 1-ranked Washington.
That tall order took the word tall to the fullest extent. With a front line boasting heights of 6-11, 6-6 and 6-5, the Panthers looked rather small in comparison (the tallest Corydon player is listed at 6-3).
The Panthers held tough in the first quarter, trailing by one at the end, but rough shooting in the second quarter soiled the upset bid. Washington, led by 38 points and 13 rebounds from Mr. Basketball candidate Cody Zeller, ended the Panthers’ season with a 68-41 victory. The win came in Washington’s home arena, the Hatchet House.
‘I thought our kids played awfully hard,’ Corydon Central coach Jamie Kolkmeier said. ‘It’s tough ‘ and not an excuse because (Washington) had to do it too ‘ is to come back for this night game. Sometimes the regional championship is a battle of who’s tougher, and I don’t think that was the case tonight. I think we didn’t play great, and we ran into a better team. That is a bad combination. If you don’t play your best game in a regional championship and that team is a little better than you anyway, it’s going to be tough.’
Corydon Central got an ideal start to the game.
Ryan Coffman forced a turnover and raced in for the first two points of the game. He was followed by fellow senior Brandon Dunaway stroking a 3-pointer to put the Panthers ahead 5-0.
Washington fought back to tie the game on a Kurtis Anthony trey and a Dylan Ervin two-point basket. The Hatchets took the lead when the 6-11 Zeller slammed his first of two dunks on the night.
Corydon Central hung around as Coffman made an acrobatic layup when fouled under the basket. His made free throw inched the Panthers to within one point, 11-10, after the first quarter.
‘It was a pretty good start, but Washington just makes it so hard for you on the offensive end,’ Kolkmeier said. ‘They force guys to take shots that they wanted to. We weren’t getting good looks early and rushed some things.’
The Panthers recouped the lead at the start of the second quarter when senior Seth Rennirt scored on a putback.
That, however, was the last time the they would see the lead. Zeller ripped off five consecutive points to start a 13-0 run. The Panthers had several close shots rim out, but they went 2 for 16 in the second quarter. Sophomore Justin Yates had the lone other Panthers second-quarter field goal. At the break, Corydon Central trailed 26-14.
‘That is what did us in and got us behind,’ Kolkmeier said of the second-quarter woes. ‘Then, we got frustrated. Overall, I kept saying we were proud of our guys. We’ve had a heck of a run this year, and (Washington’s) pretty good. They make it hard to do a lot of stuff. It’s not like you have to deal with one 6-11 guy; they have two 6-foot-6 guys in there waiting on you. (Zeller) doesn’t have to come out of the paint because one step and he can cover the 3-point line, where most guys can’t.’
In the second half, Zeller, who’s committed to play for Indiana University, lived at the foul line. He made 20 of 22 free-throw attempts on the night. Fifteen of them came in the latter half.
Corydon Central attempted to play a more physical style against Zeller, knocking the lanky center to the hardwood several times.
‘Would’ve liked to bang him a little bit harder and it not be fouls at times,’ Kolkmeier said.
Offensively, the Panthers were in a better flow in the second half. Coffman scored seven of his team-best 12 points in the third quarter. The Panthers were able to trim the Hatchets lead to 11 at one point but couldn’t get any closer.
‘They are going to beat us nine times out of 10, I think,’ Kolkmeier said. ‘But, in this tournament, all it takes is that one. Unfortunately, we didn’t have that one in us tonight.’
The Panthers shot 27 percent from the field, while Washington shot 54 percent.
Zeller’s 38 was a career best. He also blocked three shots. Ervin was the only other Washington player to reach double figures with 11 points.
Dunaway closed his career with 11 points, while classmate Rennirt had nine.
The Panthers, who were ousted by Washington in the first game of regionals last year, concluded the season with an 18-7 record.
‘These three seniors have been part of a conference championship, two sectional championships and regional finals, and the class before them and the ones after them contributed,’ Kolkmeier said.
Dunaway and Rennirt have been fixtures on the floor for the Panthers since their freshmen year.
‘We were 8-15 freshman year,’ the fifth-year coach said. ‘We had a bad start to their sophomore year, and we ended up 9-13 that year after making some changes the middle of that year. And from Jan. 1 of their sophomore year, we won a heck of a lot more games than we lost. Last year’s group was a big part of that, and this year’s group was a big part of that.’
Kolkmeier spoke highly of the three departing seniors.
‘Brandon is going to leave here as the third all-time leading scorer in school history at almost 1,400 points. He’s three times All-Mid-Southern Conference and twice in the top two in voting. One of the best players to probably ever come through our school.’
‘Ryan really came along this year. He became much tougher than I ever thought he was going to be and was a better rebounder. Really knocked down big shots several times this year, including this morning (against Sullivan).’
‘Seth is a tough kid who is very athletic and a real competitor. He’s a multifaceted guy that can do so many things, not to mention he is a really smart kid,’ Kolkmeier said.
The coach said there’s a number of reasons why the program can continue to be a winning one.
‘This is a special group that we can refer to in the upcoming year, and five, 10, 15 years down the line, people will remember these guys,’ Kolkmeier said. ‘We want to try to make winning a Corydon thing all the time. I think coach (Randy) Gianfagna did that and the players that came before us. Our job isn’t to invent winning; our job is to continue winning.’
Washington advanced to the semi-state and will take on Batesville in Seymour at 6:15 p.m. Saturday.