Sea of green drives Eagles
Walking into the Eagles’ Nest, it was a different look around the stands from a typical home weekend boys’ basketball game.
There were only specs of purple as various shades of green covered from one end of the gymnasium to the other to honor Gavin Blank, a Lanesville High School student who passed away the weekend before.
For the Lanesville faithful, there was a familiar sound of screaming cheers and claps as the final horn sounded with the Eagles holding on for a thrilling 59-58 victory over Harrison County neighbor Corydon Central.
‘It was a great crowd tonight,’ Lanesville coach Mikel Miller said. ‘It was going to be a big crowd regardless, but, with the circumstances, it was even more. Our community is so awesome. Everybody knew that, and it doesn’t take something like this to show it, but, man, we did show it. There was togetherness in supporting one another, family and friends. It’s time to heal.’
Players for Corydon Central and Lanesville donned green T-shirts during warm-ups with positive words such as ‘unity’ and ‘togetherness’ on the front with ‘GAVIN’ in all caps appearing on the back.
‘This is huge, especially with everything going on off the court,’ Lanesville senior Kevin DeSpain said. ‘This is for Gavin. Everything we did tonight, win or lose, was for Gavin. It happened to be a great win.’
Down the stretch Saturday night, it was a fourth-quarter battle for the lead. Corydon Central led by two until Connor Nolot nailed a 3-pointer in the early stages of the fourth. Rattling off two straight scores from Tripp Dillion, the last a drive to the rim for a 55-52 Lanesville edge, the Eagles took brief command.
Corydon Central regained the edge when Joey Wiseman nailed two freebies after drawing contact in the paint with two minutes to play.
On the opposite end, Nolot, a transfer from Floyd Central, provided some big moments. A step-back jumper put the Eagles up one, then, after the Panthers missed a pair of free throws, Nolot found himself open for a layup with 1:05 to play.
Held to eight points in the final quarter, Corydon Central came within one with 40 ticks left after a Bradley Nalley make. Lanesville was able to run the clock down to nine seconds with quick ball movement before Justin Bailey was fouled. After missing the one-and-one situation, Corydon Central called time-out after advancing the ball to mid-court.
‘We were just trying to run down as much time as we could,’ DeSpain said. ‘We kept passing the ball with confidence. We believe in all of our guys to make free throws.’
After chants of ‘We love Gavin’ poured out from the student section, Corydon Central’s Wiseman drove to the lane but saw his final attempt roll off the iron. A late tip in by the Panthers came after the horn.
‘It’s a good win because we graduated a good group of guys, so we had some inexperience on the floor tonight,’ Miller said. ‘To get this kind of win under your belt against a good team is big. They have two Division I athletes ” one in basketball (Nalley) and the other in golf (Wiseman) ” but both play at a high level. Joey is a heck of a player. It’s a tough match-up.’
Corydon Central coach Jamie Kolkmeier said his team struggled to get stops in big moments.
‘We’re not very good defensively,’ he said. ‘We had a good chance to make a move to start the fourth quarter and let Tripp get through the lane for an open layup … We didn’t get a stop when we needed it.’
Hitting game-winners can be thrilling for the winning side, but Miller enjoyed the stop at the end.
‘It’s nice to win on a defensive stop,’ Miller said. ‘I’d like to hit some free throws there, but, again, we responded to the situation by playing good defense at the end. We still have things to do better, but, hey, it’s nice to win these games and make improvements from there.’
It was all Corydon Central in the early going, with the Panthers racing out to a 14-4 lead. Nalley had six points and dropped off an assist to Tucker Gentemann for an easy bucket.
In the final two minutes of the opening quarter, Nalley and Wiseman picked up their second fouls with Nalley being issued his third with 28 seconds left. Nalley sat out the remainder of the half.
With fouls an issue for the black and gold, Lanesville closed the first quarter on an 8-0 burst.
‘I thought early, I told the coaches to not be surprised if we had to take a time out the first few minutes,’ Miller said. ‘Just being a home game in general can bring nerves, but, once we settled down, we played better. Joey and Bradley got some fouls, so they had to make some lineup changes. It allowed us to hit some shots after we couldn’t get anything to fall early.’
One bright spot was DeSpain, who followed up one 3-pointer by turning a steal into another triple before the end of the opening stanza. He, along with Nolot, went on to finish with 19 points.
‘My teammates, they kept hitting me and I kept shooting open shots,’ DeSpain said. ‘That’s all you can ask for is good teammates that will pass the ball to the open guy.’
‘It was great for Kevin,’ Miller said. ‘He’s been battling this ankle injury and finally got back recently.’
Offensive put-backs by Jacob Eve helped keep Corydon Central in front 17-14. Eve scored six points and had eight boards. Nalley, after missing all the second quarter, closed with 14 points and 13 rebounds. Wiseman was the high scorer with 25 points.
‘Jacob Eve was working his butt off out there,’ Kolkmeier said. ‘He was chasing down balls to get second-chance shots for us.’
A 15-2 Lanesville run gave the Eagles the lead before the half-time break. A late surge by the Panthers in a frantic second quarter left the score tied at 36-all.
The Eagles went up 43-38 with field goals by Dillion, Nolot and DeSpain, but, from then on, it was a tussle for control. Dillion closed with 16 points and seven rebounds.
‘Tripp, this is two good games in a row for him,’ Miller said. ‘This is how we need him to play. Having Connor is a big lift. He can play. You can’t say don’t let him shoot 3s, which they took away, so he got to the rim. To his credit, he recognized it. If they doubled him, he was willing to give the ball up. That’s the kind of kid he is.’
Corydon Central dropped its season opener to Seymour by one point as well. The Eagles, meanwhile, moved to 2-0.
‘It does a lot to win this game for the younger guys,’ DeSpain said. ‘A win like this gives you respect as a team. It shows the younger guys that filling roles really helps the team out.’
On top of the win, Miller said the big picture was healing for the community.
‘You are not going to forget, but, for a couple of hours, let’s see if this can help us feel better,’ he said. ‘There are a lot of people that aren’t going to allow people to forget about Gavin. Maybe tonight we watched basketball for a few hours and we watched kids represent our school and community in a positive way. We hope we helped somebody tonight.’
Corydon Central 14 22 14 8 ‘ 58
Lanesville 12 24 12 11 ‘ 59
Corydon Central (0-2) ‘ Joey Wiseman 25, Bradley Nalley 14, Jacob Eve 6, Koleton Kaiser 6, Logan Murphy 5, Tucker Gentemann 2.
Lanesville (2-0) ‘ Kevin DeSpain 19, Connor Nolot 19, Tripp Dillion 16, Griffen Reynolds 3, Jacob Wernert 2.
3-point goals ‘ Corydon Central 3 (Wiseman 2, Murphy); Lanesville 6 (DeSpain 4, Nolot, Dillion).