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Wildcats down Panthers

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Fall to Rebels; Beat Bearcats

By Greg Woods

The Henry County Wildcats got their sixth consecutive victory to start the season when they defeated the visiting Carroll County Panthers 61-47 on Dec. 17.

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The Wildcats broke open a close game in the third period and then extended the lead to as much as much as 19 points in the fourth period before clearing the bench as they got their third win against no defeats in district play this year.

The Wildcats got strong inside play from James Wundrak and Austin Young and good wing play from Chase Howard. Wundrak led the Cats with 16 points and eight rebounds while Young had 14 points. Howard also had 14 points with five assists and four steals.

“Chase had a great third quarter getting in passing lanes and driving and dishing,” Coach Enoch Welch said.

“I thought we did a great job of attacking,” Welch said. “I don’t know that we always attacked in the most intelligent fashion in the first half.  But I can’t fault the effort. You don’t criticize the effort you just talk about how you can do it better. We discussed that at halftime and the fun part about coaching this team is that they allow themselves to be coached. You tell them how to fix it and they fix it. In the second half they continued to attack but did it in better ways.”

The first half saw the Cats jump out to a 6-0 lead before the Panthers came back to tie it at 8 with 2:50 left in the opening period.

Howard scored on a layup at 2:37 and then made a nice pass to Estes on a backdoor cut for a layup to extend the lead back to 12-8 with 1:19 left. After a Carroll County layup, Howard hit a free throw to make it 13-10 with 31 seconds to go.

The Panthers were called for charging on the next play as Robbie Cruse got in the path of a driving Panther to give the ball back to the Wildcats.

 Landon New brought the ball down court on the final possession and held for the last shot. He drove to the left side of the lane and dished to a wide-open Nacona Jeffries for a 3-pointer at the buzzer to extend the lead to 16-10.

The Panthers clawed their way back into the game with good free throw shooting and 3-pointers and took the lead at 25-24 on a 3-pointer with 1:22 to go in the half.

New came down on the next possession and made a twisting drive to the basket and hit a reverse layup to give the Cats the lead back. But Carroll County answered with another long-range bomb to go up 28-26 with 46 seconds left.

Brad West hit a layup for the Cats with 33 seconds to go and then the Panthers were called for another offensive foul late to give the Cats a chance to hold for the last shot of the half.

The Cats worked the ball around the perimeter and then New drove right and found Howard open for a three at the buzzer to give the Cats a three-point lead heading into the locker room at 31-28.

The Cats began to gradually pull away in the third period behind the strong inside play of Wundrak who had 10 points in the quarter.

His inside basket while getting fouled gave the Cats their largest lead at 45-38 with 1:21 to go.

Young finished the scoring in the third period with a strong inside move to make it a nine-point lead heading into the final period.

Wundrak got his final basket of the game to open the scoring in the fourth period and the Cats’ defense allowed just four points to the Carroll first-team in the fourth period before the Panther reserves came in and scored five late points.

 “It was the best that we have done so far this year in making in-game defensive adjustments,” Welch said. “It was the difference in the game.”

Welch was pleased with the play of his point guard.

“Landon was just a general out there,” Welch said. “He talks out there and gets people in the right spots. He’s just hard-nosed and you can’t teach toughness, they just show up with that.”

He was also pleased with the team’s inside dominance.

“We got a big game from our ‘bigs’, Austin and James, and Gavin came in and gave us a big lift with a basket and two blocks,” Welch said.

Owen Co. 57 HCHS 40

The Wildcats traveled to Owen County Friday night and suffered their first defeat of the season to the Rebels. The Cats’ district rivals got a big game from super sophomore Carson Williams who had 20 points and 19 rebounds.

Both teams struggled offensively in the first half with the Rebels going on top 11-8 after the opening period. The scoring pace got even slower in the second period as the Rebels outscored the Cats 8-7 to take a four-point lead into the locker room.

The Rebels came out and took it to the Cats in the decisive third period. Owen County outscored the Cats 21-3 in the period and cruised to a 17-point win. Williams, who was held to five points in the first half scored 12 of his team’s 21 points in the third period.

“We went in at halftime down four and didn’t feel that bad about where we were,” Welch said. “We had played pretty good defense to that point. We made adjustments like we usually do at the half and then came out in the second half and had stars in our eyes. I don’t know what happened to us.

“We rushed shots and threw it away. It was a big game with a big crowd and I felt like the pressure got to us.

“I will take a lot of the credit for how we played because we over prepared for them and forgot to play our game.”

Welch said that Owen County’s aggression taking it to the basket compared to his own team settling for jump shots was reflected in the free throw numbers for the game.

“Owen County was 21 for 32 from the line and we were 3 for 10. They took it to the hole and we didn’t. That pretty much sums up the game.”

HCHS 61 Walton Verona 45

The Cats were back in action on Saturday afternoon as they hosted the Walton-Verona Bearcats with a radically different starting lineup.

The Wildcats started the game with four new faces in the lineup and struggled to get on track offensively in the opening period as the Bearcats jumped on top 11-8.

“We wanted to see how the previous night would affect us,” Welch said of the Owen County defeat. “We got a lot of good looks inside in the first half and didn’t finish.”

The Wildcats’ offense improved in the second period as seven different players contributed 15 points while holding the Bearcats to 10 to give them a two-point lead at 23-21 going into the locker room.

The Wildcats began to open a lead in the third period with a combination of good defense and passing. Austin Young, the Wildcats’ leading scorer, got untracked after scoring just two points in the first half and contributed eight points in the period. The Wildcats held Walton to just eight points in the period while scoring 17 themselves to lead 40-29 going into the final period.

Dakota Estes took the game over in the fourth period with good defensive play while Chase Howard worked his passing magic to get the ball to the open man. Estes had four steals in the final period and converted those into 6 points. Estes had 10 points in the period as the Cats blew the game open late.

“The second half we went out and played the way we are capable of playing,” Welch said. “Chase’s passing and Dakota’s defense were the difference in the game.”

The Cats improved to 7-1 with the win while Walton fell to 2-6.