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Panthers edge Wolfpack, 58-55, in tourney opener

Panthers edge Wolfpack, 58-55, in tourney opener
Panthers edge Wolfpack, 58-55, in tourney opener
Crawford County's Adam Beasley, right, is called for a foul trying to stop Corydon's Alec Saulman in the fourth quarter of Corydon's 58-55 win over the Wolfpack. Photo by Wade Bell

The annual Perry-Spencer Classic started off with a barn-burner between the Crawford County Wolfpack and the Corydon Central Panthers last Wednesday night. It took the Panthers two big runs in the second half to advance to the semi-final, while the Wolfpack moved into the consolation round.
‘We’ve had about 2-1/2 to three weeks here where the guys are buying in a little bit more,’ Corydon Central coach Jamie Kolkmeier said. ‘The emphasis is on us. Togetherness is a lot better. … There’s going to be some struggles along the way, but we just have to continue to play together and fight together about as hard as you can. If you’re able to win, great; but, if not, you want to be able to say you gave it your best effort.’
‘We’re really good when things are going well, and we’re really bad when things don’t go well,’ Crawford County coach Levi Carmichael said. ‘That’s a life lesson. We’re going to keep preaching it. We’re going to keep working on it. It’s up to us to find a way to come together and through adversity.’
There were four lead changes early in the first quarter. Crawford County struggled with turnovers in the period until Gavin Coleman drilled a 3-pointer to start a 10-1 run creating a 17-10 lead after eight minutes.
Corydon Central turned the ball over on its first four possessions of the second period, and the Wolfpack converted on three of those. Crawford County’s defense held the Panthers to one field goal and a single in the eight minutes in a 12-3 run for a 29-13 lead at halftime.
‘The first half, they just physically dominated us,’ Kolkmeier said. ‘They were quicker, longer, stronger. They were more aggressive, and we were reluctant to go to the boards. They were physical in their cuts. We stopped making cuts. They just physically owned us.’
‘We had a really good halftime talk,’ Carmichael said. ‘We talked about why we had got that half-time lead. We had talked about the first three minutes of the second half, which has always been very important. It was up to us to keep setting that tempo, and I thought they did a better job than us in doing that. That’s when (Jordan) Ripperdan got open.’
Ripperdan drilled a three to start the second half, but Crawford County answered with some noise as Josh Thomas took an alley-oop pass from Noah Sturgeon for a jam. Ripperdan then drilled his second 3-pointer to start a 10-2 run, pulling Corydon Central to within seven, 33-26.
Ripperdan later drilled his third 3-pointer of the period, keeping the Panthers within five, 34-29. Thomas and Ty Nickelson put in the next four points, extending Crawford County’s lead back to nine, 38-29.
Clayton Schreck finished the period giving Corydon Central five straight points in its 21-9 run, putting the Panthers down four, 38-34, with eight minutes to go.
‘Our kids, I thought, showed some good fight in the second half to give us a chance,’ Kolkmeier said. ‘We thought, if we could cut into it a little bit in the third quarter, there was still no way we could get all that back, but we were able to get it to four, which was huge.’
‘You’ve got to give Corydon’s kids a lot of credit,’ Carmichael said. ‘They made shots. They were making plays. They were making all those winning plays that we haven’t shown consistency in doing.’
Things got hectic in the fourth quarter. Adam Beasley sank a Crawford County deuce, but Corydon Central countered with four to close to within two. Schreck and Ripperdan scored in the paint for the Panthers. Beasley got another deuce, and Coleman added two to keep Crawford County’s lead at six.
Corydon Central pulled to within two on a 6-2 burst. Alec Saulman then added two singles to tie the game at 46, and Braydon Beauchamp drilled a three-ball to put the Panthers in front, 49-46.
Coleman scored again to pull Crawford County back to within one, but Saulman sank a deuce and three free throws that pushed the Panthers’ advantage to six, 54-48. Beasley sank a Crawford County freebie, and Coleman added a deuce. Saulman missed two free throws, and Beasley converted, pulling Crawford County to within one, 54-53.
Corydon Central called timeout, and, on the inbounds play, Schreck found himself all alone next to the basket to score for a three-point Panthers’ edge.
The two teams then traded points at the end, with Corydon Central getting the 58-55 win.
‘It was just fighting through, being physical and making every defensive possession count, fighting for every loose ball,’ Kolkmeier said. ‘It’s just a matter of heart. I thought we did a better job of cutting, so it gave us a few chances to have some open looks … (Ripperdan) stepped up and hit three big shots. They hit one, and he answered back again. Those were huge. … ‘
‘Corydon made some good adjustments and their kids made plays and ours didn’t, and that’s going to be a story of our year until we get kids that are going to be mentally tough enough when things go bad to figure out ways to swing the momentum,’ Carmichael said. ‘On our end, we just let them dictate every single thing we did, and that’s why we really struggled offensively.’
Ripperdan and Schreck led the winners with 16 points each, with Ripperdan cashing in four 3-pointers. The Panthers connected 19 of 38 field-goal attempts (50 percent) and 13 of 17 free throws. Corydon Central finished with 11 turnovers.
‘Right now, these kids are playing with a lot of heart,’ Kolkmeier said. ‘It would be hard to do that again when you spot them that many points. But we were able to make a few big plays. Jordan made some big shots, and I thought Jacob Johnson was outstanding tonight. That was the best game he’s ever had for us.’
‘We’re just going to take them one at a time,’ he said. ‘Every game is important to us because these guys have been through a lot in a year and a half and we try not to take anything for granted. So, we’re just playing them one at a time.’
Beasley led the Wolfpack with 14 points, and Coleman hit for 11. Thomas added 10 points for the Wolfpack, who hit 23 of 47 shots from the field (49 percent) and 4 of 7 from the charity stripe. The Wolfpack had 17 turnovers, six of those in the fourth quarter.
‘You lose games when you can’t execute,’ Carmichael said. ‘You have to know the scouting report, make the little plays. It has nothing to with the offense; it has nothing to do with defense. It’s just making plays and doing the tough things. Winning’s hard, and we have to learn that it’s going to be really hard. We have to do those things every single day, or we’re going to continue to stay on this slide.’
‘This team is just taking a little while longer to understand,’ he said. ‘It’s going to be up to them to determine whether it’s going to be this week or the middle of February, or some teams never get it. I hope we’re a team that will get it and understand it and, if we lose games, it’s going to be (that) we’re going to lose to a better team. Right now, Corydon was a better team tonight, and that’s why we lost.’

Corydon Central 10 3 21 24 ‘ 58
Crawford County 17 12 9 17 ‘ 55
Corydon Central (5-2) ‘ Wiseman 8, Schreck 16, Ripperdan 16, Beauchamp 5, Johnson 4, Saulman 9
Crawford County (4-4) ‘ Carlton 3, Smith 3, Coleman 11, Sturgeon 3, Beasley 14, Nickelson 4, Dearborn 7, Thomas 10
3-pointers ‘ Corydon Central 5 (Ripperdan 4, Beauchamp); Crawford County 5 (Carlton, Smith, Coleman, Sturgeon, Beasley).