After four quarters the Panthers easily took home the 62-47 victory.
“It was a real good first quarter, after that very mediocre at best,” RHS head coach Dennis Pardue said. “Our energy level went down once we got the big lead and some of it is my fault cause I was subbing rather freely.”
In the first quarter Russellville’s full court press and swarming defense caused all sorts of headaches for the Coyotes. The Panthers held a 9-0 lead and the Coyotes had more turnovers than points. Nothing in the first quarter seemed to work as they only muster four points and coughed the ball up 11 times as the Panthers raced out to a 20-4 lead after one quarter.
“We kind of got a big lead, and sort of let them back in the ball game really,” coach Pardue said.
In the second half the Panthers defensive intensity let up just a little bit and that gave the Coyotes a little bit of hope as they closed the gap to 10 at 30-20 going into the break. Giving up the ball 11 times in the first quarter, the Coyotes cut down on the turnovers as they pulled closer.
“We got up big and then it seemed like we were just waiting for the final buzzer,” coach Pardue said.
In the second half the Panthers and Coyotes almost played to a draw in the third quarter. The Panthers held a 12 point lead going into the fourth quarter, but it was after a sloppy third quarter. But in the fourth quarter they asserted control and surged forward, stamping out the Coyotes for a 62-47 victory.
The Panthers would then play Fern Creek in one of the more thrilling match ups of the young season. Regulation wasn’t enough time to settle this game. Even one overtime wasn’t enough as the Panthers managed to hold off the Tigers from Fern Creek and won 80-72 in double overtime.
“Big win for us, Fern Creek is rated as one of the top two or three teams in their region,” coach Pardue said. “We played extremely hard and with a lot of heart and that’s why we won.”
In the first quarter the Panthers saw a big, athletic, sharp shooting Fern Creek team. The Panthers were already down one big man with Darrion Quarles sitting on the bench due to undisclosed reasons but the Panthers didn’t back down the from the challenge. In the first quarter the Panthers attacked the Tigers, getting into the paint numerous times and showing Fern Creek that they were up for the challenge and issuing their own challenge to the Louisville team. Despite playing with such a high level of intensity in the first half, Fern Creek held a 33-26 lead.
But the Panthers were just getting started.
In the second half they came roaring back to wrestle the lead back from the Tigers. Down the stretch, with their other big man down low, Jordan Kennedy, fouling out the Panthers were scrambling for an interior presence. But they still held the lead, but at the end of regulation the critical free throws rattled out and Fern Creek forced over time.
In the first over time both teams battled to a stale mate with the Panthers holding a three point lead late. But the free throws remained an issue as they failed to put the game away at the line. Fern Creek managed to tie the game right at the buzzer and force a second over time.
But you can only stall the inevitable for so long. The Panthers took the lead and when Fern Creek sent them to the line in the second overtime they drained them. They would salt away the game at the free throw line and held on for the 80-72 victory.
“It wasn’t perfect by any means, but it’s a big win for us, probably the biggest win so far this season,” coach Pardue said.
The Panthers played against Bullitt Central in the title game on Thursday night.
“I understand that they are a fundamentally sound team, they can all pass the ball well, shoot well and they may be a little bit bigger than us,” coach Pardue said after the Fern Creek game. “But you can’t measure the size of someone’s heart and we played with a lot of heart tonight.”