Late surge lifts Lady Panthers in opener
Brandon Miniard, Sports Writer, [email protected]
The town of Corydon was buzzing Tuesday night as girls’ basketball was set to begin once again. Fans packed their way inside Corydon Central High School, including a pajama-clad student section, as the Lady Panthers’ hoops squad prepared for its season opener.
Facing New Washington in their first contest of the new year, the Lady Panthers had varying levels of success against both Lady Mustangs teams. The junior varsity squad opened the new season with a dominant 52-8 victory over the Lady Mustangs.
Once the opening act concluded, the main event proved to be a more contentious affair, at least throughout the first half. A scoring outburst led by four key three-pointers late in the third quarter ultimately lifted the Lady Panthers to a 59-30 victory to start the young campaign 1-0.
“We didn’t really move the basketball very well at first,” Lady Panthers’ skipper Josh Conrad said. “We decided that we were going to take the first or second shot off one pass.”
The Lady Panthers wasted no time in jumping into the early lead as they scored the contest’s first 13 points. Nine of those points came by way of junior point guard Ava Weber, who is expected to be the Lady Panthers’ top offensive weapon once again this season. The early 13-0 edge was fortified by buckets from freshman combo guard Josie Vaughn and sophomore power forward Jaiden Cantrell.
The Lady Mustangs avoided being shutout in the first quarter, thanks to a basket by Kaidin James and three free throws from Grace Ellison, ending the first quarter on a 5-0 run despite trailing 13-5.
After a combined 11 personal fouls in the opening period, foul trouble began to affect the Lady Panthers in the second quarter. Weber committed three fouls early in the period, exiling her to the bench for the rest of the first half while the remaining Lady Panthers struggled to find the bottom of the bucket.
“We were able to get up and down the court, so we had a good start, but we started reaching early and gave (New Washington) a lot of free throws,” Conrad said. “They were able to get back into the game a little bit.”
Despite the Lady Mustangs scoring 12 points in the period, the Lady Panthers kept pace thanks to Vaughn and junior guards Bre Edwards and Bailey Orme, who combined to go a perfect 7 for 7 at the charity stripe in the period. Along with field goals from Vaughn and freshman wing Gracie Wate, the Lady Panthers kept pace with the Lady Mustangs before retreating to the locker room with a 24-17 edge.
Weber returned to the court to begin the second half, notching another field goal before getting pinned with her fourth personal foul. With their top offensive threat back on the bench, the Lady Panthers watched their slim lead shrink as the Lady Mustangs mustered a 6-4 run to bring the deficit to 28-23 with 4:30 left in the period.
“We had a lot of weak fouls, probably some that shouldn’t have happened,” Weber said. “It was our first game, so there were some moments where we didn’t play as well as we could have.”
With their lead in jeopardy, the Lady Panthers’ offense finally woke up late in the quarter in a big way, shooting their way to a larger advantage led by four three-pointers courtesy of Edwards, Orme and Vaughn. Each make caused the home crowd volume to increase, as did a pair of buckets from Cantrell before the 15-5 surge ended with the quarter with the Lady Panthers leading 43-28.
The late momentum carried over into the final quarter as the Lady Panthers broke the game wide open. Despite being only one foul away from sitting the remainder of the contest, Weber finally caught fire in the closing minutes, scoring 12 of her game-high 23 points in the period. Add in a pair of baskets from Cantrell and freshman center Alyssa Groover and just a pair of Lady Mustangs free throws courtesy of Emma DeCamp, and the Lady Panthers walked away with an empathic 59-30 victory.
“Towards the end of the third quarter, we started moving the ball,” Conrad said. “When that happened, good things started happening offensively, and that got the run going again.”
Alongside her 23 points, Weber also led the Lady Panthers with eight rebounds, coming close to a double-double on her birthday. Edwards, Cantrell and Vaughn all had solid contributions offensively with nine points each. Defensively, Orme led the way with six steals.
For the Lady Mustangs, Ellison led the way with 11 points, followed by six apiece from James and DeCamp. Foul trouble was part of what did the Lady Mustangs in, seeing both James and DeCamp foul out as part of recording 18 personal fouls.
The Lady Panthers managed to get the job done despite their own sheer number of fouls committed. Led by four personal fouls from Weber and senior guard Chloe Cannon, the Lady Panthers finished with 21 fouls.
“We had a lot of fouls out in the middle of the court. In sectional, those usually aren’t called because you’re a little bit physical, but it seemed to be the opposite here,” Conrad said. “We got into a lot of foul trouble because we didn’t move our feet and kept putting our hands downward instead of outward.”
The Lady Panthers built off their empathic season opening victory when they hosted Brownstown Central on Saturday to open Mid-Southern Conference play, defeating the Lady Braves 50-43 to go 2-0 in the first week of the young campaign.
After facing Perry Central yesterday (Tuesday), the 2-0 Lady Panthers prepare to host the annual Battle at the First Capital starting Friday night. The host Lady Panthers will open the tournament by confronting Southridge at 6:30 p.m., with the winner to face the victor of the Crawford County-Greenwood Christian Academy matchup on Saturday morning at 10.
New Washington 5 12 11 2 – 30
Corydon Central 13 11 19 16 – 59
New Washington (0-1) – Ellison 11, DeCamp 6, James 6, Fields 5, Spear 2.
Corydon Central (1-0) – Weber 23, Cantrell 9, Edwards 9, Vaughn 9, Orme 5, Groover 2, Wate 2.
3-point goals – Corydon Central 4 (Edwards 2, Orme 1, Vaughn 1).