Early in Friday’s Class 4A Sectional 15 semifinal game, both the Seymour and Jennings County boys basketball teams were hitting shots.
Seymour’s Toriek Miller began the game with a 3-pointer, and Jennings County’s Johnny Scruggs countered with one of his own.
But that was the final time the Owls could stay even.
Jennings County scored five straight points to take an 8-3 lead, and the Panthers never looked back in claiming a 66-44 win to end the Owls’ season at 3-17.
The Panthers improved to 15-9 on the year and advanced to today’s 7:30 p.m. championship game against New Albany (16-6), which defeated Bedford North Lawrence 61-51 in Friday’s other semifinal.
On Feb. 8, the Panthers defeated the Bulldogs 56-52.
“We are not going to look over them,” Panthers coach Joe Hartwell said of the Bulldogs. “They are a great team. They are a really quick team, and we have to make sure we cover their shooters, as well. The first time, we got the ball inside to (Brad) Hunt.”
Senior Chase Salmon tried keeping the Owls in the game in the first quarter, as he scored nine of the team’s 12 points.
But the Panthers scored 21 to take a nine-point lead into the second quarter. Hunt, who had 14 points overall, led the Panthers with 10 points in the first quarter on 5-for-5 shooting from the floor.
The Owls cut the lead down to nine points twice in the second quarter, but the Panthers outscored them 14-9 for a 35-21 lead at halftime.
“We just kind of ran into a buzz saw,” Owls coach Kyle Clough said. “Jennings County was just awesome tonight, and I thought they were a lot better than we were. We knew we were going to have to play well and would have hoped they didn’t shoot the ball as well as they did.
“Give them all of the credit in the world, and Joe does a good job with them, and they have a good team. They are rightfully so to play for a sectional championship.”
The Owls went cold from the field in the third quarter, going 1 of 10 from the floor and getting outscored 15-4. The Panthers slowly pulled away with a 9-0 run to take a 46-23 lead. Hunt had back-to-back baskets to start the run.
Jennings County shot 7 of 10 in the quarter and took a 50-28 lead into the fourth quarter.
The Owls picked up their intensity in the fourth quarter, as they forced the Panthers to turn the ball over eight times and outscored them 19-16.
“Our guys have played hard all year long,” Clough said. “That is one thing we stressed, and I am proud of our two seniors (Salmon and Richie Hill), and I told people they won’t understand their impact until a few years down the road because they play hard, do things the right way and have helped us change the culture. Our young guys have to take that in the offseason and try to continue to build on it.”
Salmon closed out his high school career with a 19-point effort, and Hill added 12 in the loss.
Richard McNamee tallied 13 for Jennings County.
“We have size inside and will have to exploit that tonight,” Hartwell said.