NORTH VERNON — Floyd Central arrived at the Jennings County gymnasium with a little bit of extra confidence.
The Highlanders expected to continue their momentum after a double-overtime win against North Harrison on Jan. 12.
But even though the Highlanders began the game with a lot of energy, the Panthers stuffed out their hopes and recorded a 70-41 victory.
The blowout might not have been expected after Colton Kimm drove aggressively to the basket for four quick points. Then the Jennings County defense took over, smothering Kimm and his teammates while the Panthers’ aggressive trio of big men took charge.
By the end of the opening half, the Panthers’ two post players, 6-9 Brad Hunt and 6-3 Tommy Taylor, had scored a combined 16 points to lead their team to a 35-19 halftime margin.
Forward Caleb Eder contributed four points inside, while guard Bailey Sanders contributed two 3-pointers in the half.
“They just couldn’t stop him,” head coach Joe Hartwell said of Hunt, who threw down a rim-rattling dunk during the first quarter. “He was determined to go strong to the rim, and when he plays like that he’s a load. So is Tommy (Taylor) and so is Caleb (Eder). When they play tough like that, we’re hard to stop.”
“When we crash the middle, that will open things up on the outside for our 3-point shooters,” Taylor said.
Eder and Taylor each had 10 points for the game. Bailey Sanders added 10 points, including his two baskets from 3-point range.
Adrian Kirchner also contributed two treys for his 6 points.
In the second half, the entire Jennings County team combined to slam the door on the Highlanders.
Bryson Mills grabbed three steals within three minutes in the third quarter, scoring a layup off each. Mills ended with nine points.
“Bryson’s all energy when he comes in. You know you’re going to have a lot of defensive pressure coming,” Hartwell said. “He makes a shot or two, and that’s what we have to have from him the rest of the year.”
“A total team effort,” Hartwell added. “We played hard from the beginning to the end. We shared the basketball, took care of the basketball, and rebounded.”
“We had a list on the board in the locker room and we checked off everything we did right,” noted Eder. “Everything we had on the list was checked off, and that was pretty sweet.”