Panthers can’t hang on

SEYMOUR — A double-digit lead for Jennings County faded down the stretch as Bedford North Lawrence surged past late in the third quarter and then held on for a 76-73 win in first-round Class 4A boys basketball sectional play Tuesday night at Seymour.

Jennings County, which ended up with an 11-13 record, twice built 10-point advantages only to have the Stars answer back with impressive streaks of their own.

Bedford North Lawrence (11-13) advances to Friday’s semifinal contest against Jeffersonville, with Floyd Central set to face New Albany in the other semifinal.

“We just didn’t execute defensively in the fourth quarter,” said Panthers coach Joe Hartwell. “I thought our defense was strong at times, but once (Bedford North Lawrence) started rolling we had a hard time containing them.”

The tandem of Braxton Day and Blaze Byrer caused particular stress for Panthers.

The duo each poured in 23 points and made key plays down the stretch as they helped propel the Stars from trailing 49-40 with 2:30 remaining in the third quarter to a 66-57 lead at the 4:35 mark in the final period.

Jennings County sophomore Tyler Vogel kept the action close as he led all scorers with 25 points, including five 3-pointers. The Panthers also got solid play from Richard McNamee with 15 points and nine rebounds, as well as 14 points from Dan Leach and 11 from Chace Wilson.

The Stars refused to fold by draining 5 of 6 free throws in the final minute, as well as coming up with a pair of costly Jennings County turnovers.

A Leach 3-pointer with a minute left in the first quarter pushed the Panthers ahead 15-14 and sparked an 11-0 run early in the second that enabled Hartwell’s crew to build a 25-14 advantage.

Back-to-back triples by Lucas Fisher helped the Stars roar all the way back before a layup by McNamee sent Jennings County into halftime with a 33-31 lead.

A quick bank shot by Wilson and eight straight points by Vogel once again helped the Panthers surge ahead as they outscored BNL 14-6 throughout the first five minutes of the third period, but big shots by Day, Byrer and Drew Hensley brought the Stars to within 49-47.

Fisher’s third 3-pointer of the game, this time with 45 seconds left in the third quarter, pushed Bedford into the lead at 50-49, and they never trailed again.

A triple by Vogel with 3:20 remaining in the game pulled his squad to within 68-64 and an inside bucket off a Wilson assist made it 68-66 with three minutes on the scoreboard.

But the offense suddenly went cold for Jennings County, enabling the Stars to hold on for the win.

“We just didn’t shoot the ball well down the stretch,” Hartwell said. “And when we were playing good offense, our defense dropped off.”