Lady Panthers blow by Lanesville in First Cap semis
By Brandon Miniard, Sports Writer, [email protected]
The first night of the annual Cluckers Battle at the First Capital at Corydon Central on Friday once again proved successful for Harrison County teams.
The host Lady Panthers, ranked No. 8 in Class 3A, along with Class 1A No. 1 Lanesville, dominated their opening-round matchups. It began with the Lady Eagles trouncing New Albany 64-32 while the Lady Panthers handled Crawford County 62-35.
Those victories set up a highly anticipated contest to begin Saturday’s first semi-final matchup between two of the top teams in Southern Indiana. It also marked a rematch of last year’s championship game, where the Lady Panthers outmatched their county foes 44-34.
Unlike last year’s contest, this year’s matchup saw the Lady Panthers take advantage of a Lady Eagles’ defense that was not as intense as in game’s past, resulting in a 59-39 Lady Panthers’ victory.
“We just didn’t hit the basket; that’s what you have to do to beat a pretty good basketball team,” Lady Eagles’ skipper Angie Hinton said.
“I think that our defense has been rock solid for the last two weeks outside of the New Washington game, and our defense sparked our offense,” Lady Panthers’ bench boss Josh Conrad said. “We’ve been having really good practices, and I think the kids came out ready to play because we’re a pretty good basketball team.”
It took about two minutes for either side to put a dent on the scoreboard, and the Lady Eagles fired the opening salvo on a three-pointer from junior forward Ellie Schneider. The Lady Panthers responded with seven straight points en route to a 14-4 surge. While the Lady Eagles’ only other points came on buckets from seniors Morgan Sonner and Linzie Wernert, the Lady Panthers countered with a bucket from senior wing Ava Weber and a free throw from sophomore center Alyssa Groover.
While the Lady Eagles’ hard-nosed defense was fixated on Weber, sophomore guard Josie Vaughn picked up the slack as she exploded for 18 points in the period; 12 of those came from beyond the arc, including one right as time expired to give the Lady Panthers a 21-7 edge.
The Lady Eagles looked primed to erase the deficit as they began the second quarter on a 10-0 run, powered by triples from Schneider and junior guard Ava Kerr along with four points from Wernert. Those were the only points the Lady Eagles could muster in the period when the Lady Panthers countered with a bucket from senior guard Bailey Orme, a free throw from Weber and five more points from Vaughn, including another buzzer-beater three, her fifth of the half, before heading to the locker room up 29-17.
“(Lanesville) was just leaving me open,” Vaughn said of her 23-point first half. “We needed them to come out on me so I could throw it inside to Ava.”
The Lady Panthers didn’t lose a beat coming into the second half as Weber led the effort in the third quarter with four points, a triple from Orme, a bucket from Vaughn, a free throw from junior forward Morgan Adams and a three-point play from Groover. The Lady Eagles could only counter with three points from Wernert and five points from sophomore guard Hadley Crosier, making for a 42-25 Lady Panthers’ advantage.
The offense finally started to pick up for the Lady Eagles in the fourth quarter with four points from Kerr, a bucket from Wernert, five combined free throws between Crosier and fellow sophomores Hylton Brumley and Shelby Allen and a three-pointer from junior wing Emma Davis. The effort was for naught against the Lady Panthers, who, aside from two baskets for Weber, scored the rest of their points from the charity stripe. Weber and Orme each knocked down four followed by a pair apiece from Vaughn and freshman guard Meghan Logan and one from freshman guard Paisley Teeter to finalize the Lady Panthers’ 59-39 victory.
Vaughn led the charge for the Lady Panthers with a career-high 27 points, followed by 15 from Weber. Wernert led the effort for the Lady Eagles with 11 points, flanked by seven apiece from Crosier and Kerr. Untimely fouls and calls going against the Lady Eagles haunted them throughout the second half, with Wernert fouling out and Schneider having four.
“I think Josie finally had that break-out game that she’s been waiting for,” Conrad said of Vaughn. “Josie’s a good player; she came with a chip on her shoulder and burned (Lanesville) when they weren’t guarding her.”
“Physicality goes both ways,” Hinton said. “We just needed to keep fighting back and just play hard, play defense and do what we’re capable of doing and play with pride. I was proud of the girls for doing that.”
The Lady Panthers went on to the championship match later that night, where they confronted a scrappy Jeffersonville squad. The Lady Eagles, meanwhile, confronted Class 4A No. 9 East Central in the third-place game.