NORTH VERNON — Solid free-throw shooting by the Jennings County girls basketball team during the fourth quarter of the Panthers’ senior night Thursday against helped them steal a win against Columbus East.
The Panthers didn’t shoot a single free throw in the first three quarters, but knocked down 14 of 16 from the line in the final eight minutes on their way to earning the 54-50 Hoosier Hills Conference victory.
“We struggled from the free-throw line in a lot of our close games,” Jennings coach Kristi Sigler said. “We’ve had several close games throughout the season, but to see kids step up and knock down free throws tonight, it’s a confidence boost.”
The Panthers (5-13, 2-4) shot the ball well to start the game, hitting 11 of 22 from the field, including 5 of 12 from 3-point range. Kylee Matern scored nine of her game-high 14 points on three 3-pointers in the second quarter to help Jennings take a 27-25 halftime lead.
The Olympians (13-6, 2-3) battled back and held the Panthers to just four points in the third quarter. East closed the quarter on a 5-0 run to take a 39-31 lead to start the fourth.
“Our first half was pretty solid,” Sigler said. “Then, we just made some not-so-smart plays. We got in a hurry.”
The Olympians could not keep up that momentum and allowed Jennings to start the fourth quarter an 8-0 run to tie the game at 39 before taking a 49-45 lead with less than a minute left to play. Whitley Rankin scored on a 3-point basket that cut the lead back to one, but the Panthers could not miss at the free-throw line.
East had a chance to tie the game, but Macy Roth came away with a steal and knocked down both free throws to give Jennings a four-point lead with 17 seconds left. Roth scored six of her 13 points in the final quarter and hit all four of her free throws to help seal the deal.
“It feels good and builds our confidence a lot,” Roth said. “… I thought we did very well. We were very patient and had confidence tonight that we probably shouldn’t have after the sequences this season.”
Callie Wilder led the Panthers with 11 rebounds to go with her 11 points.
Kristen Lyons scored a team-high 10 points for the Olympians and ended with four blocked shots. Britney Ballard added another five blocks.
East coach Danny Brown said there were no positives to take away from his team’s effort.
“We took a big step backwards tonight,” Brown said. “Jennings County had better players than we do, have better coaches than we do. They were better than us tonight, and if we continue to play like this, we won’t win another game.”