Lady Panthers’ D helps secure semi spot
By Ross Schulz, Contributing Writer
The 3A No. 12 Corydon Central Lady Panthers collected their 20th win of the season last Tuesday night and its first post-season victory since the 2013 regional.
The Sectional 30 opening-round win clinched the first 20-win season for the program since the 2005-06 campaign.
The victory didn’t come easy, however, as the Charlestown Lady Pirates came out firing to take an early nine-point lead before Corydon Central stormed past the visitors on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter.
Led by junior Ava Weber, the Lady Panthers pulled away in the final minutes for a 52-39 win.
“We always talk about our defense creating our offense; (Charlestown) came out early and hit some big threes there to start it off,” Corydon Central head coach Josh Conrad said. “At the start, I think it was nerves. It’s a big sectional game and, ultimately, once we got settled in, we found shooters and had our defense create our offense. That is key to our team, and it worked out really nice for us.”
It was a nervy start for the Lady Panthers with missed shot after missed shot, including a few air balls.
Charlestown, meanwhile, opened with hot shooting from the outside with Tatum McFarland hitting two three-pointers.
It took the Lady Panthers about 4 minutes to get on the scoreboard with a Weber bucket in the lane to make it 7-2.
Another three from McFarland helped the Lady Pirates take a 12-6 lead at the first-quarter break.
The second quarter saw Lady Panther freshman Josie Vaughn come up big. When everyone else outside of Weber was struggling to score, Vaughn notched 9 points in the 8-minute frame, including a big three-pointer and a steal and lay-in.
Behind Weber and Vaughn, the gap was closed and only a layup by Madison Nipper kept the Lady Pirates in front at the half, 26-24.
Coach Conrad said Vaughn’s effort in the second quarter was exactly what the team needed.
“It was the little spark we were looking for, that was big,” he said. “A bunch of girls came off the bench and did a great job. Morgan Adams hit a big three in the second half.”
The Adams three came early in the fourth quarter, providing the first separation for Corydon Central following a back-and-forth low-scoring third period.
The three gave Corydon Central a 35-31 lead, sending the large black-clad contingent of Lady Panthers’ fans into a frenzy.
Corydon Central kept control of the game the rest of the way.
“Imagine being a high school kid and looking up and seeing that crowd; whatever side you are on, it’s going to pump you up and, obviously, the opposing side sees it too,” Conrad said. “Our crowd is phenomenal. I joked with (Corydon Central athletic director John) Atkins about it being a sixth man. And it is a factor, a difference maker. We commend them and hope to see them Friday and Saturday.”
The Lady Panthers held McFarland to a single point in the second half, for a total of 13 to lead Charlestown.
The Lady Pirates were 5 of 10 from three-point land in the first half but couldn’t find the net in the second, going 0-4.
Corydon Central forced 17 Charlestown turnovers.
Bailey Orme came up big with 6 rebounds to match Vaughn as the team leaders.
Weber led all scorers with 29, including 11 in the final quarter. Vaughn totaled 13 for the winners. The Lady Panthers moved into the sectional semifinal to face Salem, which received a bye.
The semi-final games were moved from Friday to Saturday night because of winter weather. Corydon Central won that contest against Salem. The final was played last night (Tuesday).
“I tell the girls all the time you have to be confident because you are a good basketball team,” coach Conrad said. “Now it’s just going out in-between the lines and doing what we need to do, and thankfully for the last three-and-half quarters today I think we did that.”