Lady Panthers reclaim First Capital
Brandon Miniard, Sports Writer, [email protected]
The last time the Corydon Central Lady Panthers were in the championship game of their annual Battle at the First Capital, they fell to a well-balanced Lanesville offense led by a group of experienced seniors and a superstar scorer in Gracie Adams.
That time was a mere year ago. Fast forward to Saturday night at Corydon Central High School as the First Capital’s title game was set to begin with last year’s combatants. The host Lady Panthers made it to the championship by way of a 48-28 victory Friday night over Southridge followed by defeating Class 1A No. 11 Greenwood Christian Academy 67-51 Saturday morning.
The Class 1A No. 2 Lady Eagles had a slightly more difficult time making it back to the title game. Despite taking care of business against Evansville Reitz 56-32 Friday night, the Lady Eagles had to endure a low-scoring, physical first half with New Albany before pulling away with a 48-29 victory.
In another matchup between Harrison County foes, this time it was the host Lady Panthers who struck gold offensively. Riding the shoulders of a huge night from junior guard Ava Weber, the Lady Panthers avenged last year’s defeat with a 44-34 victory to claim the Cluckers Battle at the First Capital.
“I think the girls were pretty active defensively; there were just a few mistakes here and there. Overall, I think we played tough,” Lady Panthers’ skipper Josh Conrad said. “I think we’ve been pretty good defensively all year, but I thought we were getting into those gaps a little bit quicker and really helping each other out.”
The contest began with Lady Eagles’ junior center Morgan Sonner and Weber exchanging three-point plays amid a physical first few minutes, serving as a possible prelude to what could be a classic. That script was flipped when Sonner momentarily left the game due to lower back tightness after a hard fall, followed by two early fouls from Lanesville junior forward Linzie Wernert.
With two of the Lady Eagles’ top players exiled to the bench, the remainder of the quarter saw the Lady Panthers pull ahead mostly on the back of Weber, who added another seven points to her first-quarter onslaught. She was assisted by a bucket from senior guard Chloe Cannon and a pair of free throws from sophomore forward Jaiden Cantrell.
“Linzie gets two fouls, and Morgan goes down and gets hurt, now we’re in trouble,” Lady Eagles’ head coach Angie Hinton said. “Those are my two big kids, so now we’re relying on freshmen and other inexperienced players, and it’s just hard.”
The Lady Eagles’ first-quarter scoring included seven points from Sonner, a bucket from Wernert and a free throw from senior wing Kennedy Gordon. It was not enough to reclaim the lead as the period ended with a 14-10 host advantage.
While normally the one to overwhelm opponents with offense, the Lady Eagles got a taste of their own medicine as the Lady Panthers started the second quarter with a 7-0 run, powered by buckets from Weber and sophomore forward Morgan Adams, capped by a crowd-rousing three-pointer from freshman guard Josie Vaughn. Weber concluded the first-half offense with another three-point play, giving her 15 of her game-high 27 points.
“I’m not sure, but I think Lanesville’s defense was in a 1-3-1 set early on, but I think we did a good job beating it,” Weber said. “For our defensive end, I think that’s what won the game because we really got in front of their players really well.”
The Lady Eagles’ normally potent offense found itself in a tough spot as they could only muster four points in the period, including another bucket from Sonner and two free throws from Wernert. The result was the Lady Eagles finding themselves in the unfamiliar role of the team behind the eight ball as they retreated to the locker room trailing 24-14.
“I think that we didn’t have our heads in this one; we were probably tired from the first couple games (of the tournament),” Wernert said. “We had some of our shots just go in and back out. If we would have had more of our shots fall, we would’ve had more energy.”
The Lady Panthers’ offense did not falter due to the 10-minute break as they began the second half with another 6-0 surge, with Weber again leading the charge. The junior guard notched another seven points, including her third three-point play. A bucket from junior shooting guard Bailey Orme and another pair of Cantrell free throws resulted in another 11 Lady Panthers’ points for the period.
Just as the Lady Panthers’ offense stayed strong, the Lady Eagles continued to struggle to make shots. What points they did score came solely from Gordon, who managed a three-point play and another bucket for a total of five points, sending the Lady Eagles into the fourth quarter trailing 35-19.
With eight minutes remaining, the Lady Eagles began to knock down shots as they started the period on a 9-2 run. Wernert began to heat up as she knocked down three baskets, one of which came from downtown, along with a pair of free throws. The freshman duo of Hylton Brumley and Hadley Crosier, shut down for much of the contest, finally got into the scoring column as the former hit a bucket while the latter converted on a free throw.
The Lady Eagles’ late run mattered little to the Lady Panthers as Weber converted a three-point play for the fourth time in the contest, putting the finishing touches on a 27-point night with five points. Cannon and Vaughn knocked down a combined 4 for 6 from the charity stripe to keep the contest in double digits. Despite a last-second three from Lady Eagles’ sophomore forward Emma Davis, it only chipped the deficit to a final of 44-34.
As soon as the buzzer sounded, the Lady Panthers stormed the floor, as did their student section as athletic director John Atkins presented the wooden plate to commemorate the occasion. The win gave the Lady Panthers its first Battle at the First Capital title since 2017. The hosts have now won their own tournament four times in its seven-year history, its second in the current eight-team format established in 2017.
“It was a very good tournament this year with really competitive teams. It’s always nice to play Southridge because they’re well coached, and Greenwood Christian’s last few years have been unbelievably good,” Conrad said. “Then we top it off with Lanesville, who is a darn good basketball team that’s well coached and just does a lot of stuff on the court really well.”
“Our game plan was good; we just couldn’t hit a basket. When you don’t score, everything starts to fall through,” Hinton said. “We’ll all learn from this; this was a lot of experience for these kids and a lot of things we can go back into practice and work on and they’ll get better. They’ll rebound from this and have a strong season.”
The Lady Eagles will look to bounce back from their first loss of the season when they host sectional-rival Christian Academy of Indiana tomorrow (Thursday) at 7:30 p.m. The past seven meetings with the Lady Warriors resulted in victory for the Lady Eagles, their last loss coming on Nov. 19, 2015.
The Lady Panthers built off their strong 6-0 start to the season as they hosted Paoli yesterday. Their next target lies in Sellersburg, the home of two-time defending Class 3A state champion and Mid-Southern Conference-rival Silver Creek, on Monday. Tipoff against the No. 3 Lady Dragons is set for 7:30 p.m.
Corydon Central 14 10 11 9 – 44
Lanesville 10 4 5 15 – 34
Corydon Central (6-0) – Weber 27, Cannon 5, Cantrell 4, Vaughn 4, Adams 2, Orme 2.
Lanesville (4-1) – Wernert 13, Sonner 9, Gordon 6, Davis 3, Brumley 2, Crosier 1.
3-point goals – Corydon Central 1 (Vaughn); Lanesville 2 (Davis 1, Wernert 1).
Corydon Central 27 11 14 15 – 67
Greenwood Christian 12 12 12 15 – 51
Corydon Central (5-0) – Weber 16, Cantrell 13, Orme 12, Edwards 9, Vaughn 9, Cannon 4, Adams 3, Groover 1.
Greenwood Christian (3-2) – Waldron 14, Bigelow 13, Simon 13, Jolley 5, Grider 3, O’dell 3.
3-point goals – Corydon Central 5 (Edwards 3, Vaughn 2); Greenwood Christian 5 (Waldron 2, Bigelow 1, Jolley 1, Simon 1).
Southridge 8 12 10 8 – 38
Corydon Central 13 10 16 9 – 48
Southridge (1-3) – Montgomery 19, Keusch 8, Goeppner 7, Birchler 3, Marshall 1.
Corydon Central (4-0) – Weber 13, Edwards 9, Vaughn 8, Orme 6, Adams 4, Cannon 2, Cantrell 4, Sailor 2.
3-point goals – Southridge 2 (Birchler 1, Goeppner 1); Corydon Central 5 (Edwards 3, Orme 1, Vaughn 1).