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Panthers’ early assault sinks Pirates

Panthers’ early assault sinks Pirates
Panthers’ early assault sinks Pirates
Photo by Brandon Miniard. Corydon Central senior guard Owen Shireman chucks a three-pointer to end the first quarter of the Panthers’ 58-33 over Charlestown on Saturday. The buzzer-beating triple was the seventh of the quarter for the Panthers.
By Brandon Miniard, Sports Writer, [email protected]

As the second half of the boys’ basketball season gets underway, the Corydon Central Panthers look like a team anew.

The Panthers had a slow start to the 2021-22 season, losing five of their first seven games. Starting with the Perry Spencer County Holiday Tournament, the Panthers turned their season around as they proceeded to win six of their next seven contests.

Their hot streak continued this past weekend when they had a homestand with Mid-Southern Conference implications, kicking it off on Friday when they breezed past rival Salem 76-30. The next night, the Panthers hosted rival Charlestown as part of homecoming festivities.

While the Corydon Central arena watched an overtime thriller earlier that day by the girls’ hoops squad, the boys’ game was nowhere as close as the Panthers sailed away with a 58-33 victory.

Despite a physical Pirates’ defense, Panthers’ junior forward Anthony Martin got things started with a three. Minutes later, Martin departed after suffering a significant right ankle sprain trying to score on a fast break. After Martin left the floor, the Panthers came out with guns blazing. Aside from two free throws and a bucket from junior center Austin Vaughn, the Panthers’ remaining offense in the opening frame came from beyond the arc.
Six more triples tickled the twine in the period, including a trio of triples from junior guard Tyler Fessel and long balls from senior guard Owen Shireman and freshman forward Thomas Wilkinson. Shireman, who was crowned winter homecoming king, finished off the Panthers’ early assault with his second triple of the quarter at the buzzer, pushing the hosts to an early 25-4 advantage.

“(Charlestown’s guards) were playing off me a little bit, and I was moving around and cutting, trying to get open because they play pretty good defense,” Fessel said. “I just got into my groove and hit some shots.”

“(Charlestown’s) a physical team, and they play gap defense a lot,” Panthers’ skipper Joseph Hinton said. “It’s a good defense if you’re not hitting shots because they keep you outside of the paint. We got open shots because we moved the ball inside out, and we shared the basketball very well.”

The offense didn’t improve by much for the Pirates as they scored only seven points, courtesy of a three from Karson Higdon and buckets from Nick Broady and Jake Helton. Vaughn led the Panthers’ second-quarter efforts with four points, followed by a triple from senior guard Nolan Ables. Shireman and senior guard Bryce Weber added buckets, while Fessel chipped in two freebies to expand the Panthers’ lead at halftime to 38-11.

“We focused a lot on Helton; he’s one of (Charlestown’s) better players in my opinion because he’s an all-around scorer, and (Grayson Connell) we were focused on making sure he didn’t get shots,” Hinton said. “We talked about (Chase Benner) a lot being 6-foot-6 in the post; it was a battle to keep him off the boards. Then we talked about Demetrius Phelps; he’s a lot to guard, and he’s a really good guard. Those four guys were the ones we were trying to stop.”

After scoring just two points in the first half, Phelps led the Pirates to a slightly better offensive showing in the third quarter with seven points, alongside a triple from Aedan Tackett. The Panthers’ seniors led the charge to open the second half with four points apiece from Shireman and Ables alongside a Weber three. Wilkinson added another long ball and Vaughn chipped in a basket to take a 54-21 lead into the final quarter.

The Panthers’ offense finally relented in the fourth quarter with only four points, three coming on a triple from junior Hunter Schmitt alongside a free throw from Cameron Freed. The Pirates scored three times as many points in the period, led by six points from Phelps, followed by four points from Jake Ottersbach and a bucket from Austin Pickerell. The Pirates’ fourth-quarter scoring merely closed the deficit to a final of 58-33.

Phelps was the only Pirate to score in double figures, leading all scorers with 15 points. The Panthers had a more balanced offensive performance as Shireman led the way with 12 points. Fessel and Vaughn followed with 11 and 10 points, respectively.

With the 2-0 weekend over Salem and the Pirates, the Panthers have now won eight of their last nine ballgames. Their only loss during that span was a 75-51 defeat at Floyd Central. Despite the injury to Martin, the Panthers are getting hot at the right time.

“We’ve been getting after it more in practice, focusing more on the defensive end,” Shireman said. “We’re starting to listen to what coach (Hinton’s) saying, coming together all around and just learning to play basketball.”

“It’s about our level of focus, how hard these guys are working and our communication levels, which have been at an all-time high,” Hinton said. “It doesn’t matter who scores because they all share the basketball, and we have three or four, sometimes five, guys scoring double digits now. We’ve been playing some really good team basketball.”

The Panthers prepare for another packed weekend, starting when they travel to Paoli to face the Rams on Friday. They will return home the following night to host Class 3A No. 8 Brownstown Central in a Mid-Southern Conference clash. Both games will tip at 7:30 p.m.

Charlestown 4 7 10 12 – 33
Corydon Central 25 13 16 4 – 58
Charlestown – Phelps 15, Ottersbach 4, Higdon 3, Tackett 3, Benner 2, Broady 2, Helton 2, Pickerell 2.
Corydon Central – Shireman 12, Fessel 11, Vaughn 10, Ables 7, Wilkinson 6, Weber 5, Martin 3, Schmitt 3, Freed 1.
3-point goals – Charlestown 3 (Higdon 1, Phelps 1, Tackett 1); Corydon Central 11 (Fessel 3, Shireman 2, Wilkinson 2, Ables 1, Martin 1, Schmitt 1, Weber 1).