BY JAMES PENCE
For The Republic
VERSAILLES — With less than 40 seconds left, Jennings County found itself trailing by a single point and still had three fouls to give, which would have chewed up more clock.
The Panthers ended up catching a big break when they stole the ball from East Central, and Tyler Vogel finished the play to put his team ahead 59-58. With three fouls still to give, Vogel fouled East Central’s Sam Sehlwort with two seconds left so he could not get a shot off.
The decision paid off when the Trojans’ inbounds pass went to Brady Ewing, and his shot hit off the front of the rim and the Panthers claimed the South Ripley Invitational championship 59-58.
“I’m proud of these guys, and we fought all weekend long,” said Jennings senior Tyler Vogel, who put up a team-high 30 points and nine rebounds and was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. “We were deeper than they were so we kept running up and down the court in order to wear them out.”
The Panthers (7-1) found themselves down at halftime 32-26, but a huge third quarter charge was in the making. Nick AmRhein and Vogel led Jennings on a 15-5 run that gave it a 41-37. The teams traded baskets until the very end of regulation.
“I’m so proud of my team, and they played with so much character,” Jennings coach Josh Land said. “They absolutely never quit. There was never one second in the game where we believed we were defeated, and that’s the important thing. We will get better at the basketball things, but we got the ‘believe’ part down.”
The Panthers had trouble shutting down Ewing, the Trojans (7-2) top player, who finished with 31 points. But Jennings held him to six in the fourth quarter.
“He is a great player and has been around for a long time,” Vogel said. “He got some big shots in the first half, but we slowed him down in the second half and contained him a little bit better.”
The Panthers are enjoying their nice start to the season.
“We are getting confidence,” Jennings senior Kenneth Jones said. “That is the one big thing we have going for us.”