Corydon finds way to overtake Lady Lions
By Alan Stewart, Contributing Writer
Through the first 18 minutes of Saturday night’s Class 3A North Harrison Sectional semifinal against Salem, Corydon Central trailed, 31-23. To that point, the Lady Panthers had hit only seven of 14 free-throw attempts, had committed nearly double-digit turnovers and couldn’t get the key stops needed to make a sustained run against the Lady Lions.
That’s when Corydon Central did what it’s done almost all season: it found a way.
The Lady Panthers went from an eight-point deficit at the 5:35 mark of the third quarter to leading by four at the end of the period, then went 12 of 14 at the foul stripe in the final stanza to rally against Salem, 59-52. The victory set up the championship game for last night (Tuesday) against No. 4-ranked and defending Class 3A state champion Silver Creek (22-2), which escaped Saturday’s other semifinal with a 52-48 win over Madison Consolidated (12-9). The games were pushed from Friday due to icy precipitation.
Corydon Central junior Ava Weber posted 23 points, including 9 of 11 at the foul line (7 of 7 in the fourth quarter) and freshman Josie Vaughn hit for 13, including 10 in the second half for the winners. On the other end of the court, Salem’s Macie Tomlinson, bombed six triples on the night for 23 points. It wasn’t quite enough, however, to turn back the Lady Panthers, who have won nine straight.
“We talked at halftime about trying to cut little bits at a time and try to get one or two possessions to get back into the game,” Corydon Central coach Josh Conrad said. “Tomlinson coming down and shooting the way she shot was tough for us defensively because (Abigail) Ratts and (Natalie) Noel are so good and then you have her step out for 23 points. That’s big.
“Our girls responded pretty well the second half but really the whole game. I told them that they didn’t quit when their backs were against the wall … ” he said. “(Salem) is a good basketball team, and we were fortunate to get out of here with a win … ”
With a combined four losses, the Corydon Central-Silver Creek matchup for the sectional championship is — on paper, anyway — the best title bout among all of Indiana’s 64 sectional final games. And to get to the title matchup, Corydon Central rode the hot hand of its leading scorer, Weber, heads-up play by its freshman guard, Vaughn, and contributions of some type from each player who stepped on the hardwood wearing a Lady Panthers’ jersey.
Corydon Central had a 3-2 lead with 4:24 left in the first quarter on a bucket and free throw by Vaughn but wouldn’t lead again until a Weber basket with :57 remaining in the third.
At the end of th first period that saw Corydon Central shoot 2 of 6 from the field and Salem 3 for 13, the Lady Lions had a 8-6 lead.
Both offenses got going in the second with the two clubs trading buckets throughout much of the quarter.
With 3:27 left, Corydon Central’s Chloe Cannon came through with three of her seven points to answer a bomb from Tomlinson, with teammate Morgan Adams coming off the bench for a basket inside to make it 18-17. Salem extended its advantage to 23-17 before Jaiden Cantrell scored inside with a minute left to set the half-time margin at 23-19.
Natalie Noel, who scored 11 for Salem, hit a triple to start the second half, then Vaughn connected on a pair of charity tosses and Bailey Orme had a steal and lay-in. A 5-0 spurt by Salem pushed the advantage to the Lady Lions’ largest of the game, 31-23. That’s when Corydon Central came to life, thanks in part to a zone press.
Orme and Vaughn both hit threes, and Weber scored a goal to tie it at 31. Noel hit a three, and Tomlinson had a free throw around a Bailey charity toss with 1:48 remaining in the third when Corydon Central closed with a 7-0 run. Adams and Weber both hit a free throw apiece, Weber scored a deuce and junior Bre Edwards came off the bench for a clutch three as time expired to give Corydon Central a 39-35 lead going into the final quarter.
Salem refused to go away, surging ahead 44-43 with 4:06 showing, but the Lady Panthers’ defense allowed just two more field goals the rest of the way as they held on for the victory. Much of the chaos was caused by Orme and Vaughn out top.
“Josie is one of the most athletic basketball players side to side that you’ll see,” Conrad said. “She can turn it on so quick to get in front of somebody to get that jump ball or get that steal. It’s fun to watch.”
Corydon Central went 18 of 36 (50%) from the floor. The Lady Panthers committed 14 turnovers while forcing 17 and out-rebounded Salem, 27-21. The Lady Lions were 17 of 40 (43%).
With the championship game set, Conrad reflected on the earlier meeting with Silver Creek, which was a 29-point victory for the Lady Dragons, and what he hopes his club can do different to claim the program’s 18th sectional crown and first since 2013.
“We were up one about halfway through the second quarter and then we got four fouls in a row… and Ava had to sit out for the rest of the second and then Bailey had to sit out the rest of the second and that kind of took our aggressiveness away,” Conrad said. “We didn’t get to the free-throw line against Silver Creek at all, so that’s something we’re going to have to toughen up …
“We’ll have to be able to handle their pressure,” he said. “It’ll be difficult because they get after it.”
Whoever comes away with the sectional hardware will play the noon game Saturday at Charlestown against the Sectional 29 champion, either Rushville or host Greensburg. The 10 a.m. game will feature whoever comes out of Sectional 31 (Host Washington or Vincennes Lincoln) and Sectional 32 (Evansville Memorial or host Gibson Southern).
Salem 8 15 12 17—52
Corydon Central 6 13 20 20—59
Salem – Tomlinson 23, Noel 11, Ratts 11, Dean 5, Brown 2.
Corydon Central – Weber 23, Vaughn 13, Cannon 7, Orme 6, Cantrell 4, Adams 3, Edwards 3.