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Lady Panthers rout Paoli

Lady Panthers rout Paoli
Lady Panthers rout Paoli
Corydon Central junior guard Ava Weber takes an elbow to the face as she goes up for a layup against Paoli’s River Fleming in the waning seconds of the first quarter against the Lady Rams last Tuesday. Weber once again dominated with 24 points, seven rebounds, five assists and five steals. Photo by Brandon Miniard
Brandon Miniard, Sports Writer, [email protected]

After taking down Class 1A No. 2 Lanesville to win the Battle at the First Capital Saturday night, the Lady Panthers came into the season’s third week 6-0, their best start in 19 years. The last time the Lady Panthers had this type of start, Michael Uhl’s Lady Panthers won their first nine contests to kick off the 2002-03 campaign.

Looking to keep their undefeated ways going, the Lady Panthers returned home to host Paoli last Tuesday. Led by a combined 46 points from the junior backcourt duo of Ava Weber and Bailey Orme, the Lady Panthers cruised to their seventh consecutive victory, 74-44.

Despite the dominant performances from Orme and Weber, the Lady Panthers’ offense began courtesy of freshman guard Josie Vaughn, who went to the basket for a layup immediately after the opening jump ball. After the Lady Rams knocked down a three-pointer by the hand of Jackie Crews, Vaughn countered with a triple of her own.

A free throw from Orme helped the Lady Panthers to a 6-5 advantage halfway through the opening quarter. Powered by a three-point play and another bucket from Weber along with a bucket from sophomore forward Morgan Adams, the hosts began to pull away with a 5-0 run, which quickly grew to a 10-2 surge. The run was capped by a last-second triple courtesy of Orme to take an early 16-7 edge.

“Basically, our game plan was to hold Crews and make her shoot contested shots, then keep the two McBride guards (Kacey and Kinsey) out of the paint,” Lady Panthers’ head coach Josh Conrad said. “Offensively, we were trying to just move the ball to get the best look possible and take it. Sometimes we’re a little bit indecisive and pass up open shots, and we need to just grow up and take them.”

The Lady Panthers’ offense did not fade away in the intermission as they began the second quarter on an 8-2 run. After a relatively quiet five-point first quarter, Weber went off for 11 points, including another three-point play. Vaughn added another bucket as well as four freebies as she and Weber went a combined 7 for 7 at the charity stripe.

Orme added a pair of buckets alongside field goals from sophomore forward Jaiden Cantrell and freshman center Alyssa Groover. Senior guard Addy Sailor capped off the Lady Panthers’ 27-point explosion after receiving a perfect pass from Weber, knocking down a mid-range jumper right as the clock expired to give the hosts an 43-21 advantage.

“I think (Paoli) put a lot of pressure on us, but that worked to our advantage,” Weber said. “We had some good inside-out shots early, then it got easier whenever they put more pressure on us (on the perimeter).”

While Weber scored another five points in the third quarter, Orme led the way in the period with 12 points, half of which came on a pair of threes. Junior guard Bre Edwards nearly had herself a triple in the waning seconds, though it merely bounced away. That gave an opportunity to senior guard Chloe Cannon, who snatched the board before going back up, scoring a putback basket at the buzzer to give the Lady Panthers a 62-34 lead.

Despite having a large lead going into the fourth quarter, the Lady Panthers offense finally came to a halt, needing over halfway through the period to score on a Weber free throw. Orme added a pair of freebies, while Adams and Cantrell chipped in a bucket each.

With a large lead, Conrad felt comfortable bringing in less-experienced players off the bench. One who came through was freshman Gracie Wate, who knocked down one of two free throws before getting a layup late in the period to finish off the Lady Panthers’ 74-44 victory.

Along with 24 points and a team-high seven rebounds and five steals from Weber and 22 points from Orme, Vaughn chipped in 11 points in the first half. Ball movement was a crucial factor in the Lady Panthers’ attack, dishing out a combined 21 assists, led by seven from Vaughn and five dimes apiece from Weber and Orme.

Crews paced the Lady Rams with 17 points.

With the victory, the Lady Panthers moved to 7-0 on the year, continuing one of their best starts in program history. It also marks the Lady Panthers’ most recent winning streak of at least seven games since the 2012-13 campaign, when Michael Uhl’s Lady Panthers won 12 straight to close out that year’s regular season, not losing again until the regional final against Rushville on Feb. 16, 2013.

The strong start has not come without its difficulties, which were on display during practice just a day earlier, when the Lady Panthers were still coming off the high from winning the Battle at the First Capital.

“(Last Monday), we didn’t have a very good practice and we came out not ready to play,” Orme said. “This time, we came out and had some energy, and we were thinking that we need to play hard going in and move the ball well.”

“They were on a pretty good high because they had a big weekend after winning the tournament; (last) Monday was a case of ‘maybe we can just coast through this (practice),’ so I don’t think they got ready to get back to work on Monday,” Conrad said. “I think it’s good to win basketball games, and that’s the ultimate goal, but what we’re trying to tell the kids is that we have to get better at the things that we think will help win basketball games in February.”

The Lady Panthers got a preview of a potential February matchup when they confronted defending Class 3A state champion and third-ranked Silver Creek in a Mid-Southern Conference showdown yesterday (Monday). After stepping away for Thanksgiving, the Lady Panthers will return home Saturday afternoon to take on Vincennes Lincoln at 2:30.

Paoli                               7   14   13   10 – 44

Corydon Central         16   27   19   12 – 74

Paoli (1-3) – Crews 17, Walls 9, McBridge 8, Anderson 6, Higgins 2, Hopper 2.

Corydon Central (7-0) – Weber 24, Orme 22, Vaughn 11, Adams 4, Cantrell 4, Wate 3, Cannon 2, Groover 2, Sailor 2.

3-point goals – Paoli 3 (Crews 2, Walls 1); Corydon Central 4 (Orme 3, Vaughn 1).