Panthers outlast Cougars
By Brandon Miniard, Sports Writer, [email protected]
The last time a boys’ meeting on the hardwood between Corydon Central and North Harrison was won by the former, there wasn’t a single member — player nor coach — of either team’s current personnel around.
The Panthers’ last victories over the rival Cougars came during the 2018-19 season, when Jamie Kolkmeier’s Panthers squeaked by Kevin Jones’ Cougars 69-68 during the regular season. The two met again in the first round of sectional that season, which the Panthers won 70-56.
Starting in 2019-20, the boys from Ramsey dominated the rivalry as veteran skipper Lou Lefevre’s Cougars went 5-0 against the Panthers and young bench boss Joseph Hinton. That record includes a pair of sectional contests, including the two rivals’ previous meeting in last year’s sectional semifinals, a 58-52 victory for the eventual sectional champion Cougars.
In the hopes of reversing their fortunes, the Panthers hosted their rivals in Cory-
don on Friday night in the latest hardwood edition of the Big Cat Classic. In front of a sellout crowd, the Panthers outscored the Cougars 21-12 in the final quarter to begin Mid-Southern Conference play with a 54-46 victory.
“(North Harrison’s) a really tough ball club, they’re very well-coached, and they have a lot of talent, and we knew the reason that they’re so successful is because they can get to the basket easily and break defenses down,” Hinton said. “We had to make sure to keep them off the glass and try not to send them to the free-throw line as much as possible.”
“(Corydon Central) had a lot more energy; they got a whole bunch of second and third chances, loose balls; they made us fumble and throw the ball away; they played the type of game that wins you these kinds of games,” Lefevre said. “We got outplayed, and Corydon deserved to win this game.”
Both sides started the contest on equal ground as they split the first 10 points before the Panthers began to pull away, thanks in part to a pair of three-pointers from senior forward Anthony Martin. Seniors Austin Vaughn and Jalen Fowler added four points, and senior guard Tyler Fessel notched a bucket against a score from Cougars’ sophomore David Langdon and five points from senior Riley Schneider, ending the first quarter with a 16-9 Panthers’ lead.
Martin, Fowler and Vaughn each added a bucket in the second quarter, while Schneider scored again alongside a bucket from senior Sawyer Wetzel and a pair of triples from senior Brody Fessel. Tyler Fessel capped off a five-point period by snatching the ball before taking it to the hoop on a fast-break layup as time was winding down.
Cougars’ senior Kaleb Kellems countered by racing the ball down court before letting it fly from the wing, finishing off a seven-point quarter with a three-pointer that tickled the twine at the buzzer, cutting the Panthers’ half-time edge to 27-26.
Offense for either side slowed considerably during the third quarter as the Panthers got four points from Vaughn and a bucket from Tyler Fessel. Schneider countered with a triple, while Brody Fessel’s five points gave the Cougars a slim 34-33 advantage heading into the final period.
Langdon did everything he could to keep the Cougars ahead as he notched nine points, followed by a combined three free throws between Kellems and Brody Fessel. It wasn’t enough as the Panthers exploded offensively, paced by nine points from Tyler Fessel, followed by five points from Martin, three from Vaughn and buckets from Fowler and sophomore forward Thomas Wilkinson to seal the Panthers’ 54-46 victory.
“We didn’t do the things you have to do to win a game like this; we seemed a step slow on team defense, on the boards and running our stuff … ” Lefevre said. “David’s a decent shooter, and we got it to him around the rim so he can finish, which he does well, but there were too many plays where we didn’t get a decent chance to get to him because we were mostly throwing the ball. You’re in a close game and throw the ball to the other team and they score a layup, it loses games.”
Of the five Panthers to score, three reached double figures, led by a game-high 18 from Tyler Fessel and 13 apiece from Martin and Vaughn. Brody Fessel paced the Cougars with 12 points, followed by 11 each from Kellems and Langdon and 10 from Schneider.
“All four years that we’ve played North Harrison, they’ve always had good defense and they’re well-coached, they have a lot of intensity,” Tyler Fessel said. “I thought we overcame that tonight. It feels really good to win, especially after last year in sectional when we lost by six points. I think we should’ve beaten them last year, but this is the first time we’ve beaten them, but it feels good to beat them this year.”
“(Corydon Central) was aggressive and was all over the place. They were all over the ball, and it was rare to get an easy look from them,” Brody Fessel said. “They played good defense and honestly got in our heads a little bit because of their aggression on the ball; it shook us a little bit.”
With the victory, following their season-opening victory over Seymour, the Panthers are off to a 2-0 start for the first time since the 2014-15 season, when they won their first three straight. For the first time since 2018-19, the Cougars post a 1-2 record after their first three games.
While the Panthers roared victoriously into the friendly confines of their locker room, Hinton noted that such a key early-season victory is only the beginning and that his squad will need to stay on target for the remainder of the season.
“It was awesome; these boys have been working hard over the last four years to get to this point, but there’s still a lot of work left to do,” Hinton said. “I’m proud of the way our guys executed tonight; they stuck to the script as much as possible … The train doesn’t stop here; we have to keep chugging along. But it was a great win for this program and this community. It was nice to see everybody out here tonight to support us; it was a great night for basketball in Indiana in general.”
The Panthers began the current week yesterday (Tuesday), when they traveled to confront Madison Consolidated. They will return home to host Evansville Memorial on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
The Cougars meanwhile will return home on Friday night when they continue MSC play by hosting rival Silver Creek at 7:30.