No. 2 Lady Lions hold off Corydon Central
Alan Stewart, Contributing Writer
Salem, the No. 2-ranked team in Class 3A, showed why it was deserving of that status after grinding out a physical, 77-63 victory over a feisty pack of Lady Panthers from Corydon Central last Tuesday night at Connor K. Salm Gymnasium in Madison in the opening round of state tournament play.
Four of the five starters from Salem reached double figures in scoring as the club bombed nine triples in the Sectional 30 quarterfinal win.
Corydon Central (10-11) never quit despite getting down as many as 17 points in the first half, and the 63 points the team scored were the most of any team this season against the 19-2 Lady Lions, who came into the contest giving up an average of a tick over 40 points a game.
Lady Panthers head coach Josh Conrad said his bunch had a good week of practice leading up to tourney play and the offensive output was his team fighting for survival.
“I think it was a combination of both. We were patient offensively and moved the ball really well. We were able to get the ball inside and get Jaiden (Cantrell) and Ava (Weber) established early and that helped create more offense,” Conrad said. “We felt like the girls came out ready to compete and not back down from a very good basketball team. Offensively, we moved the ball really well and set teammates up for the most part. It was a physical game, and we thought all of our girls stepped on the court ready to meet them.”
Salem found out it would be in for a fight early on as Corydon Central senior Grace Erwin, sophomores Weber and Bailey Orme and freshman Cantrell scored all of their team’s 15 points in the opening quarter, which ended with the Lady Panthers trailing by two.
However, the Lady Lions found their footing in the second period.
Junior Abigail Ratts connected from long range, with Cantrell answering on the other end. From there, Salem went on a 9-0 run that was halted when Corydon Central senior Jessica Fulk scored a goal, making it 29-19 at the 3:40 mark. Cantrell scored to set the match at 29-22, but Salem exploded again with a 10-0 spurt. Fulk hit a triple from the right side at the half-time buzzer to stop the bleeding, 39-25.
At the break, Corydon Central was shooting 9 of 22 (41%) while Salem was 13 of 29 (45%), including 5 of 14 (36%) on threes.
“Salem is a very good basketball team that does a really good job forcing turnovers and offensive rebounding,” Conrad said. “In the second quarter, we had a couple of turnovers that led to baskets and gave up too many points off offensive rebounds. They made us pay. They were also able to get to the free-throw line.”
At halftime, Corydon Central’s coach said he told his club to try to get the margin back under 10 points at the four-minute mark, gunning for defensive rebounds and setting up teammates for good shots.
The Lady Panthers were able to slice one point off the deficit by the end of the third, but every small run by Corydon Central was met by a Salem three-ball or a small Lady Lions’ spurt.
“We cut to 10 twice and nine once; we just couldn’t get that next possession to go in our favor,” Conrad said. “I felt like Salem did a great job responding any time we scored consecutive possessions. Salem has two players, (Natalie) Noel and (Karly) Sweeney, who can do it all on the basketball court plus several other girls who are great role players. Their length and height hurt us defensively, but you have to be proud of the effort and grit our girls showed.”
Weber fought hard inside for 19 points, with Cantrell slicing and dicing her way to a 14-point night. Fulk scored nine points with a three, Kayla Willoughby had seven, Erwin scored five and Bailey Orme scored four points. In the fourth quarter, Bre Edwards hit from long range and Morgan Adams knocked down a pair of free throws for their only points of the night.
The Lady Panthers went 21 of 51 (41%) from the field, including 3 of 13 (23%) on triples, and helped their cause by going 18 of 22 (82%) at the foul stripe. Salem hit 27 of 52 (52%) on field goals overall with a 9-of-23 (39%) effort from deep and 14 of 22 (64%) at the line. The rebounding battle was awash at 31-all, with Corydon Central giving up 14 turnovers while forcing 13.
Salem was led by the 22 points of Noel, 16 by Ratts and 15 apiece from Callie Backherms and Sweeney. Oliva Weber added seven points on the winners’ side.
With the tournament setback, Corydon Central says goodbye to its three seniors: Erwin, Fulk and Willoughby.
“Grace, Jessica and Kayla are exceptional student-athletes, who have very bright futures ahead of them,” Conrad said. “We hate to lose them in our program but are excited for their future.”