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It was frigid outside, but red-hot inside the Gallatin County gym Thursday, Jan. 8, as the Lady Panthers took one from the border rival Lady Wildcats in regulation play.
During the contest, three Lady Panthers fouled out, and both teams went for 37 free throws combined in the fourth quarter alone.
Playing a smart, smothering defense, the Lady Panthers also play unselfish team ball. That characteristic was certainly true in this game.
But one can never discount a Gallatin County team; they will always mount a comeback, winning more than their share of games in the final period.
At halftime, the Panthers had the lead, 28-23, and came back in the third period to continue outscoring the Lady Wildcats.
But the fourth quarter was when things really got interesting – the two teams fouled almost nonstop, shooting an unprecedented number of free throws from the line. Head Coach Randy Mefford said he couldn’t remember when he had three girls foul out in one game.
Kyndal Curry fouled out with 3:45 left on the clock; with the score 50-45, Lady Panther Tasha Hunter came in to replace Curry. Fourteen seconds later, Hannah Devine made a fourth foul.
With two minutes left in the game, Hunter fouled out; Marissa Brindley came in to replace her with the score at 50-46.
A few seconds later, it was a one-possession game at 52-50, and the Lady Panthers had to toughen up to stave off the Lady Wildcats.
The final 53 seconds took more than four minutes to play, as each possession was hotly contested with unrelenting pressure on each side. Both teams were in the double bonus, so every foul sent someone to the line.
Devine was the last Lady Panther to foul out with 23:9 seconds left as she went up to block a three-point shot. Mercedes Martin went in for Devine, and the final 23 seconds were draining. During that time, the Lady Wildcats sent four to the line; the Lady Panthers sent three. Finally, when the last second ticked off the clock, the Lady Panthers were ahead 58-54.
“I like those kind of games when we’re ahead by 20 and everybody gets to play,” Mefford said. “We had a couple of kids that haven’t been in that situation before. Mercedes came in and made a big free throw for us, and Sarah Osborne was really good at the line.”
Mefford said the Wildcats came hard at the Panthers throughout the game. “We’d get up a little bit and they’d come back. ... If you’d have told me we’d get a one-point win up here, I’d take it. We could never shake them. They do a lot of the same stuff we’re doing, and they play hard, and they gave us dose of our own medicine.”
The Lady Panthers are now 10-5 on the season. They face Williamstown at 6 p.m. today, Jan. 14, in the first round of the All Class A tournament at Owen County.