Defense does it as CC turns back NH
By Alan Stewart, Contributing Writer
With a couple of minutes left in Friday’s first semi-final matchup between Scottsburg and Madison Consolidated, Corydon Central’s student section started chanting that it wanted their team to play Scottsburg. But to get to Scottsburg, the Lady Panthers would first have to go through North Harrison, and the Lady Cats had no intentions of lying down against their rival.
To the surprise of many, North Harrison willed its way to a 27-all tie with 3:17 left in the third period and was staring at a five-point deficit, 34-29, heading into the final eight minutes.
Spurred on by a “It’s time to go now. We’ve waited too long,” from senior Ava Weber, the Lady Panthers had no intentions of being upset by North Harrison. Weber helped with a full-court press that resulted in a slew of fourth-quarter turnovers and baskets en route to a 53-39 victory that gave the student section its wish (Scottsburg turned back the Lady Cubs, 71-56).
Weber poured in 21 points, including 10 in the final period, and sophomore Josie Vaughn erupted for 18 more as No. 6-ranked (Class 3A) Corydon Central pulled away and advanced to the sectional championship for the second consecutive year and ending the Lady Cats’ season at 5-17.
“(North Harrison) played a really good game and didn’t turn the ball over. They won a lot of 50-50 balls that first half. We said at halftime we had 20-plus deflections and only five steals, and that’s because we’d get the deflection but we’d be out of position to get the steal that would lead to some easy baskets,” Corydon Central coach Josh Conrad said. “We were able to get some hands on passes and, unlike in the first half, the person was there. It was kind of do-or-die mode. Ava came over at one point and said, ‘It’s time to go now. We’ve waited too long.’ I think the girls responded to that and picked it up after that.”
North Harrison skipper Jamie Kolkmeier said he was extremely proud of his group’s moxie and that it had a game plan coming in that worked better than the one on Jan. 17 when Corydon Central thumped the Lady Cats, 70-33.
“We knew we had to pass the ball because they were trapping us. We just talked about fighting them and not rolling over. To be honest, the first time they played us, I thought they were better than us, but we handed them too much stuff and made it way too easy for them. I thought Tuesday night Charlestown came out and didn’t fight them at the beginning and you do that and they’ll run over you,” Kolkmeier said. “We talked about not turning the ball over and, in the first half, we had eight turnovers and that kept us in it that we weren’t giving them easy scores off turnovers. You have to be able to at least take a shot against them. We turned it over 14 times in the second half and most of those were in a couple of little stretches into the third and the first few minutes of the fourth, and that’s when they made their push.”
A sluggish and erratic first period ended with the clubs shooting a combined 6 of 20 from the field and the Lady Panthers (23-2) on top, 12-7, on a Vaughn three-pointer just before the buzzer.
The first four buckets of the second frame were all threes from Vaughn, Corydon Central’s Morgan Adams, North Harrison senior Kyra Case and another one from Vaughn to end the streak to put her club on top, 21-10. Lady Cats junior Madi Clunie had an and-one, and a short bit later teammate Lydia Wilkins swished a three to close to 23-16. Clunie ended the scoring in the half, 23-17, with a free throw at the 2:14 mark.
In the second quarter, Corydon Central took eight field-goal attempts and all were outside the arc.
“We wanted to get the ball inside, but we settled too much,” Conrad said.
“Athletically they are really good, really quick; they have some really nice pieces, and they are aggressive. We haven’t always been as aggressive as them, and I thought tonight we matched their aggressiveness, which is what we were looking for. Part of the reason for the lower score, sometimes with two aggressive teams you are going to have people fight and guard people and it’s just harder to score,” Kolkmeier said.
Sydney Smith started North Harrison’s second-half scoring with a triple, then Weber dropped in an inside bucket at the 5:01 mark that was her team’s first field goal since Vaughn’s three with 4:58 left in the second quarter. Lady Cats freshman Grace Goldman hit a bucket, then Wilkins sent the Cougar Crazies into a frenzy as she splashed a three to tie the battle at 25-all.
A Weber basket was countered with two clutch free throws from Lady Cats senior Chloee Shewmaker. After that, the Lady Panthers woke up on the defensive end and went on a 19-4 run to put the game away.
“It was 27-27, and I think we had the ball twice. That doesn’t make us win the game, but, if we had gotten one score there, maybe … All the pressure was on them tonight, and maybe the pressure makes them more nervous and gets them out of their comfort zone and it makes their shots harder to go in. All you can do in those situations is keep the pressure on,” Kolkmeier said, adding the only to stop Weber is to throw multiple players at her and hope for the best.
“The first time we played she had free reign to cut down the floor, wherever she wanted to go. We have good kids, nice kids, and they are trying to play defense, but they haven’t always been very physical. If you are going to let Ava Weber come down the lane, you are probably going to end up with a score or a foul or both. So, tonight I thought we fought her and didn’t give her the free reign that we gave her the first time we played. And she still got 21. You have to be physical with them because they are physical and handsy. That’s part of aggressive basketball. If you go up against a good post player like her, you have got to lean on her all the time.”
Conrad said there wasn’t much of a rah-rah halftime speech and that it was more about keeping the ball moving to keep North Harrison’s players on their heels.
“We wanted to get the ball moving more offensively. They were trying to take the middle away and rightfully so, because Ava is pretty good at getting down there. You have to get the ball moving side to side. That was really it. We wanted to try to get some transition baskets, too. You can’t just walk the ball up the court,” Conrad said. “We pulled (Josie) out at one point and told her she can get the basketball and it’ll lead to points going the other way. She did. She had some big plays and hit some big shots, and we’re still trying to get her to shoot when she’s open. I don’t care if the player is in front of her; if their hands are down, she needs to shoot it.”
The Lady Panthers were 20 of 41 shooting, 4 of 15 on threes and went 9 of 13 at the line. Corydon Central had 16 turnovers on the night. After Weber and Vaughn, Alyssa Groover and Adams had five points each and Bailey Orme scored four.
North Harrison was 13 of 39 from the floor, including 5 of 15 on threes. The Lady Cats went 8 of 11 at the line, grabbed 30 rebounds to Corydon Central’s 21 and had 22 turnovers. Wilkins scored 12, Sydney Smith had seven, Grace Goldman and Kyra Case added six each, Madi Clunie scored four and Shewmaker and Gracie Fouts rounded out the scoring with two points, each on 2-of-2 shooting at the line.
“Unfortunately, Audrey (Tucker) didn’t get to play the last month and a half because she got a bad concussion and we just want her to be healthy. She was kind of our energy person and our fighter and go-getter. Chloe, I thought she competed really well here tonight and, at times, she really brought that to us. She’s got a little feistiness in her, very tough for a smaller girl, and then Kyra has got our size and some skill and knocked down some shots tonight,” Kolkmeier said. “Those three, you hope they’ll continue to be part of your community and we wish them the best and want them to stay in touch and all that. I thought they were good leaders for us.”