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Panthers give it a worthy run

Riding home from the Class 3A Washington Regional two weekends back, I was able to catch the final half of the Big East Championship game. Paul Rogers, play-by-play announcer for the University of Louisville men’s basketball team, caught my attention with a comment he made in the closing minutes.
The veteran voice of the Cardinals mentioned how nervous he was and how his hands were shaking during the final plays of the tournament. Louisville lost the game to Connecticut, but Rogers’ call made me reminisce my feelings just 11 hours prior.
Sitting along the baseline between intruding Washington cheerleaders and a line of fans along a tight space, I was caught in the moment when Corydon Central pulled off a 63-58 overtime win against Sullivan.
I admit, I had the nervous twitches. Yet, when the Panthers took the lead late in the fourth quarter on Ryan Coffman’s 3-pointer near my photo spot, I had a feeling the Panthers would pull it out. In overtime, it was all Panthers after Sullivan gained a short lead. Seniors Brandon Dunaway and Seth Rennirt knocked down free throw after free throw to seal the game.
The tail end of the Sullivan game showed the grit the Panthers possessed for much of the season, especially since early February, when they gained momentum during a four-day, three-game stretch. They held on to defeat Eastern (Pekin) at home and followed with a big road win at Charlestown. Two days later, it took two overtimes for the Panthers to defeat Salem on its home court for a win that propelled CCHS to a share of the Mid-Southern Conference title.
From Feb. 4 to the end of the season, Corydon Central went 10-2, playing its best basketball at the right time.
In the regional championship game, the Panthers were outmatched by lengthy Washington.
Rumblings have been made about Corydon Central’s physical play, especially in the game against Washington, well, in particular, the Indiana University-bound Cody Zeller.
The nearly 7-foot center is a superstar in waiting, a player Corydon Central coach Jamie Kolkmeier referenced as being a possible NBA talent in a few years. Those are pretty strong words.
In the game, the Panthers tried many ways to slow the leading candidate for Mr. Basketball. Zeller hit the deck a few times, but that is part of basketball. Late in the game, Zeller smiled after being fouled and continued to make his free throws.
Corydon Central reached the final eight by playing a physical style of man-to-man defense. Many high school teams throw out various zone defenses anymore, but not from the Panthers. Their quickness and strength just wasn’t a match for Zeller and the Hatchets, who will play Saturday for their second consecutive state title.
Good thing is, Washington is out of Zellers for the time being.
Corydon Central’s Dunaway received a rather notable snub from Hoosier Basketball Magazine’s Top 100 senior boys. The 6-3 guard has been a lock in Kolkmeier’s starting line-up for four years at the Class 3A level. He tallied more than 1,400 points and helped lead his team to two sectional titles. This past season, he averaged 16 points and six rebounds for a team that went 18-7.
Three players from Washington made the list, including one who averaged six points and five rebounds per game.
The lack of Dunaway’s name on the statewide list doesn’t dismiss the impressive season the Panthers as a whole had.
Update: Dunaway has now been invited to Hoosier Basketball Magazine’s Top 60 workout on April 3.