Highlanders slay visiting Panthers
By Wade Bell, Sports Writer
After their win over Heritage Hills in the Perry-Spencer tournament during Christmas break, the Corydon Central Panthers hoped to carry that momentum into their road trip to Floyd Central Friday night. The Highlanders were much bigger and stronger, however, and proved to be a bigger challenge.
“Almost every team does outsize us, but we talked about the length and about how big they were,” said Corydon Central coach Joseph Hinton. “We talked about their shooting ability.”
What Hinton and the Panthers didn’t count on, however, was the Highlanders shooting 70% from the field as Floyd Central won in a 75-51 rout.
“Overall, I was pleased,” said Floyd Central coach Todd Sturgeon. “We got the ball inside to Wes (Celichowski). We shot it in pretty well. Nathaniel Hoffman had a big game off the bench. Cole (Harritt) hit a couple. Max (Tripure) hit a couple, so I was overall happy. You can always nitpick but, if you get a 20-point (win) against a team that’s won four straight, you should probably consider that a good game.”
The Highlanders went on a rage to start the game, scoring the first 12 points until Corydon Central’s Tyler Fessel finally hit a jumper to break the run. The two teams then traded points with the Panthers making a slight gain, down 15-8 at the end of the period.
Fessel closed the gap to five to start the second period, but Harritt drilled a second three in return. After the two teams traded baskets, the Highlanders went on another 10-2 burst to go up 30-16. Fessel drilled another three, but Hoffman countered with five to start another 10-0 run. T-Mac Wilkinson drilled a three for the Panthers at the end of the half, but Corydon Central found itself down 40-22.
“We talked about early posting,” Sturgeon said. “In the first half, we had several positions where we got it up the sideline and right into Wes immediately into the post. That was one thing we worked on this week on offense. Two or three of those were early posting. That’s something we thought we could do in this game, but we haven’t been doing enough of this season.”
“When we were hitting shots, we were staying in the ballgame,” Hinton said. “We went on a cold streak there where the ball wasn’t moving and we were taking a couple of questionable shots. That’s when the lead ballooned back out.”
Floyd Central missed just one of its 11 shots from the field in the second quarter and carried that over into the third, hitting nine of 10 field-goal attempts with the Highlanders upping their advantage to 60-37.
Floyd Central’s shooting finally cooled down in the fourth quarter, but the Panthers were just in too deep of hole to escape, the Highlanders rolling on to the 75-51 win.
“They’ve got a good offensive team and had a couple of guys really start making shots,” Sturgeon said. “They can be difficult to guard.”
“If we execute, it could have been a different ballgame,” Hinton said. “Nothing could fall. We couldn’t hit one off the side of a boat it seemed like. We were taking some good shots, but the shots wouldn’t fall. The shots that were falling were actually bad shots but, hey, they went in so I guess that’s a good shot.”
Hoffman came off the bench to lead the Highlanders with 17 points, putting down four from behind the arc. Celichowski followed with 13 for the Highlanders, who hit 32 of 46 shots from the field (70%) and 3 of 6 free throws. Floyd Central had 11 turnovers for the game.
“I’m disappointed in our turnovers,” Sturgeon said. “That’s the part of it I feel we need to do a better job of. We’ve turned the ball over a little too much, not like crazy turnover numbers, but a little too much.”
Hinton said Hoffman wasn’t on the Panthers’ radar.
“I did not think he was going to hit all of his shots,” said the Corydon Central coach. “It may have been his best night of the year. He hit a lot of open shots, and some of them were tough ones where we had a hand up. When he got hot, we couldn’t stop him. He’s 6-4, jumping up in the air and shooting over the top of us, but he was not the main guy on the radar.”
Fessel led the Panthers with 22, and Bryce Weber followed with 12. Anthony Martin, who excelled during the PSC tournament, was held to three points. The Panthers put in 18 of 43 field goals (42%) and 7 of 10 free throws and finished with 10 turnovers.
“I don’t know if we did something or if he just had a bad game,” Sturgeon said of containing Martin. “That happens on the road. A lot of guys have had road games where that happens … Our size matches up with him. We’ve got some bigger guys who can move their feet and stay with him.”
The Highlanders will take on Jeffersonville and North Harrison this week.
“Those will both be a challenge for us,” Sturgeon said. “Jeffersonville is a conference game and a game we need to win if we’re going to win the conference. North Harrison is good. They had us in a bad way last year, and Jake (Heidbreder) wouldn’t let us lose after being 16 down in the fourth quarter.”
Hinton said the Highlanders were most likely their toughest opponent of the season and hopes the downhill side of the season will allow his team to create more momentum to the post-season.
“We’ve looked at it like, ‘OK, we know what it takes to get to that next level. We’re still climbing up the mountain’,” Hinton said. “We reached a certain level after that PSC tournament, and that was great. Now we’ve just got to keep climbing and get to the spot (where) we want to be. Now we know what the top looks like, and that’s something we’re going to be aiming for.”