NORTH VERNON — The Jennings County boys basketball team, which downed Rushville 69-62 on Friday night, needed halftime encouragement to motivate them to overcome a 33-28 deficit.
“I told them they needed to get their energy up,” Panthers coach Joe Hartwell said. “We needed more pressure on defense and to push the floor in the second half.”
The Panthers responded.
Jennings County (8-4) opened the second half with a 7-0 run, capped by a Bailey Sanders 3-pointer that gave the Panthers a 35-33 lead with 5:56 remaining in the third quarter. “In the first half, we were playing slow,” said Sanders, a 5-foot-10 senior guard. “We got out-worked. Coach got us on track at halftime.”
After only scoring two points in the first half, Sanders scored 18 in the second half en route to leading Jennings County with 20 points.
“Bailey picked the team up and put it on his back in the second half,” Hartwell said. “He was the senior leader we needed him to be.”
Senior Tommy Taylor added 18 points for the Panthers.
“At halftime, we talked about running the floor more,” Taylor said. “We needed to be there on defense. We hit a few shots and got a few stops and we were on a roll.”
“Tommy has caught what I call the Eder bug,” said Hartwell, making reference to Panthers sophomore Caleb Eder. “Like Caleb, he goes hard and is all confidence. When Tommy gets the ball inside, he’s determined to score.”
A key to Jennings County’s victory was consistency from the free-throw line. The Panthers hit 24 out of 31 (77 percent). Rushville scored only three points off free throws.
“We just needed confidence in the second half,” Sanders said. “We hit a few shots and our confidence gets going. It’s all about the win.”
The Panthers will face one of their toughest challenges of the season tonight when they host the visiting Columbus North Bull Dogs. Class 4A Columbus North (10-1) is ranked eighth in the state.