The Eminence Warriors hosted Carroll County on Feb. 17, exactly one week after being pummeled by the Panthers, 72-43, and came away with a hard-fought 51-45 victory.
The Warriors used disciplined offense and tenacious half court defense to get out to an early lead and then had to weather a comeback from the Panthers.
In the first period Jalen Dixie opened the scoring just 13 seconds into the game with a 3-pointer. Carroll scored the next four points to take the lead briefly before the Warriors took control.
Mitchell Golden scored inside to make it 5-4 and then Dixie stole the ball and raced down court for a layup. He was fouled on the play and converted the free throw to make it 8-4.
Carroll County scored the next two buckets to tie it but Eminence went on a 7-1 run to close the period and lead 15-9 heading into the second period.
The Warriors extended the lead to nine points at 5:47 of the second quarter when Cornelius Sanford hit a 3-pointer from the right wing to make it 20-11.
The Panthers stayed close with strong offensive rebounding throughout the rest of the period. They had four put back baskets over a 3-minute stretch in the middle of the period but the Warriors continued to maintain a five to seven point lead until the Panthers hit a free throw with 1:06 to go in the half to make it 26-22.
Shelby Armstrong’s free throw with 37 seconds set the halftime score at 27-22.
The Warriors struggled offensively in the third quarter scoring only four points on a Dixie drive and inside basket by Armstrong and Carroll County found enough offense to score 12 points and take the lead 34-31 going into the final period.
The Warriors got back on track in the fourth period and pulled ahead 39-38 on a put back by Golden with 5:04 to play.
The teams traded the lead back and forth and with 2:02 left in the game Carroll County got a steal and layup to tie the score at 45. It was the last basket of the game for the Panthers.
Sanford hit one of two free throws at 1:44 to take give the Warriors a one-point lead. Carroll County called a timeout to set up a play after Sanford’s free throw.
The Warriors, who played man-to-man defense the entire game, came out of the timeout in a 3-2 zone, which seemed to befuddle the Panthers, who passed the ball around for over 30 seconds before settling for a 3-point shot that missed the mark.
The Warriors came down and got a nice driving basket by Dixie with 1:03 to play.
On Carroll County’s next possession Golden came up with a big block but the Panthers came up with the ball and missed again.
Carroll County was forced into pressing and fouling and Dixie hit one of two free throws at 31 seconds and then Jake McKinley stepped to the line and hit two free throws with 6 seconds left to seal the win.
“The biggest thing in this game is we were disciplined,” Nethery said. “We followed the game plan most of the night. We did have a short period in the third period where we got away from it but we got back to it in the fourth period.”
Nethery was pleased that his team finally is showing signs of doing the things that make the difference between a double-digit loss and a win.
“All year we haven’t done the small things it takes to win,” he said. “We just do them partially in games. Our emphasis going into district was to do the small things and execute and we did that in this game. For example, Trevor Payton didn’t score a point but he had a good game doing the small things. He had a couple of big assists and played good defense.”
EHS 72 Burgin 43
The Warriors traveled to Burgin the following night and Nethery felt the team had a bit of a hangover from the big win against Carroll County.
“We were lackadaisical in the first quarter against Burgin,” Nethery said. “The kids were pretty excited about the Carroll win, so we came out slow, especially defensively.”
The Warriors offense was clicking enough that they led by six points, 21-15 after the first period, but Nethery was not happy about the team’s defensive performance against a young, inexperienced Burgin squad.
“We obviously picked it up in the second period,” Nethery said with a smile.
The Warriors used a smothering half court defense to outscore Burgin 29-2 in the second period.
“We played great pressure half court defense in the second period,” Nethery said. “We didn’t allow them to make the entry pass to start their offense. We got a lot of steals that we converted into easy lay ups on the other end.”
The Warriors were able to play their young players in the second half and cruised to a 29-point victory.
“Trevor Payton really shot the ball well in this game,” Nethery said. “And Mitchell Golden dominated inside.”
EHS 67 Evangel 61
The Warriors celebrated senior night on Wednesday Feb. 19 with a victory over Evangel in their final regular season game.
“We started the seniors and they had a lot of fun in the opening part of the game but we didn’t do a very good job defensively,” Nethery said. “When we settled into our regular rotation, we began to click offensively but we still didn’t play very well defensively the entire first half.”
The Warriors led 23-17 at the end of the first period but Evangel came back to outscore the warriors 19-14 in the second period to trail by only one going into the locker room.
The Warriors edged out to a two-point lead after the third period by outscoring their opponents 13-12.
The Warriors began to pour it on in the fourth quarter and extended the lead to 18 points about midway through the final period.
“In the second half our defense was much better,” Nethery said. “We stretched it out in the fourth period before we put the young guys in with about two minutes to go.”
Evangel went on a late scoring spree to close within six points at the end of the game.
Nethery talked about his senior point guard, Jalen Dixie, who led the Warriors with 29 points.
“Jalen played really well,” Nethery said. “He played an all-around good game. He distributed the ball well. He did a really good job of penetrating their zone defense.
“Trevor had a couple of big three’s in the fourth to open the lead up.”
The Warriors’ three-game winning streak to close the regular season improved their record to 6-20 and gave the team confidence heading into the district tournament.