THE Jennings County Panthers girls basketball team hopes that hard work at the free-throw line will pay off later this season.
Each team member must shoot 300 free throws during each week of practice.
“It was a weakness that didn’t show up much last year,” co-captain Mariah Kinney said. “It’s showing up more this year because we’ve improved so much in other areas, and our games are much closer.”
The Panthers split their first eight games of the season. But poor foul shooting cost them chances to win against East Central and New Albany.
Against the Bulldogs, the Panthers hit 11 of 31 free throws.
“We still have things we need to work on,” head coach Carrie Manowitz said. “We’re not satisfied with where we are. We want to win more conference games this season.”
The Panthers’ victory over Jeffersonville was their first conference victory in three seasons and the first for anyone on the varsity squad.
“It was awesome to beat Jeff,” senior co-captain Kirsten Biggs said. “The varsity hadn’t won a conference game since they beat Floyd Central our freshman year.”
Biggs scored 17 of the team’s 46 points, including four key foul shots to help force overtime.
“In the locker room, everyone was happy after the game,” Kinney said. “That’s quite a change from last year. We didn’t win any games last year, so this year our losses actually hurt.”
The Panthers have become a more cohesive team as the players know how to complement each other. The Panthers have been more effective at using their superior height and length to stymie opposing teams. The ability of the guards to successfully navigate the ball past midcourt and avoid turnovers has been key to the team’s offensive improvement.
“It all starts with (Biggs),” Kinney said. “She’s the point guard, and she’s really improved at making the entry pass. If she doesn’t make the entry pass, she can get the ball to me on the outside or get it into the post to Emma Campbell or Katie Wilson.”
Winning has helped boost team morale and create better team chemistry.
“We’ve gotten better at picking people up,” Biggs said. “Practice has been a lot more positive because we have more self-confidence. During games, we don’t dwell on negative stuff like we used to. Now, we just brush them off.”
Manowitz and her staff are impressed by the dedication the team has shown.
“Expectations are higher for us this season,” she said. “The girls get along better this season, and they are more committed. Several of them have been shooting extra free throws before or after practices. Several of them have watched game film without being asked to do it. No particular person has stood out this season. It’s been a team effort.”