By John Stepp For The Times-Tribune
KNOX CENTRAL — Despite being down seven points to start the fourth quarter, the Knox Central Panthers clawed back to defeat the South Laurel Cardinals 43-39 in the 13th Region matchup.
The Panthers were still without point guard Matthew Barger, who is out with a hip injury, but got a big game from freshman center Chad Marsee. Marsee controlled the paint for Knox Central, scoring 18 points and grabbing nine rebounds.
“It was a really good game for him. He did a great job of finishing around the basket and making passes from the high post,” Knox Central Coach Brian Evans said. “He also hit all of his free throws and pulled down several rebounds. It was just a really great game for him.”
The game was a defensive struggle for much of the first half. Both teams scored just eight points in the opening quarter before the Cardinals took an 18-17 halftime lead.
South Laurel started to take control of the game early in the third quarter. Senior guard Matt Slavey hit two three-point shots to give the Cardinals a 24-19 lead just two minutes into the second half. One possession later South Laurel scored nine straight points, increasing their lead to 33-22 with just a minute to go in the third, and helping them to a 33-26 lead heading into the final period.
Senior point guard Blake Sanders was the key to the Cardinals’ success in the third quarter, scoring seven of his 11 points. This was the first game back for Sanders, who missed several games with a broken wrist.
“(Blake) played well. He still has a way to go to get into game shape. He has stayed in pretty good shape but there’s nothing like playing games,” South Laurel Coach Jeff Davis said. “It’s going to take him some time to get adjusted to playing with everybody, but, for the most part, I was pleased with him.”
After scoring on their final two possessions of the third quarter, the Panthers scored the first 12 points of the fourth. The Knox Central defense held the Cardinals scoreless for the first six minutes of the final period and led 38-35 with just under two minutes left in the game. South Laurel cut the lead to two with six seconds left in the game, but sophomore guard Jeffrey Adams knocked down two free throws to seal the victory for the Panthers.
“We started forcing things in the fourth quarter. We were taking the ball to the hole when things were not there. We were forcing passes. We just started running around like we didn’t know what to do,” Davis said. “You have to give Knox Central credit. They went man-to-man and their guys got into us. We had to play patient and see things better and we didn’t do that.”
Knox Central 43, South Laurel 29
Knox Central 8 9 11 17 43
South Laurel 8 10 15 6 39
Knox Central (43) – Marsee 18, Adams 10, Hensley 6, Merida 4, Wilburn 2, Hall 3.
South Laurel (39) – Baxter 12, Sanders 11, Slavey 10, Schaser 2, Vandeventer 2, Miller 2