Lady Pack lose 3 after failing to close out contests
By Brandon Miniard
Despite fielding a ball club that could be considered one of the taller, lengthier Class 2A teams in the area, the Crawford County Lady Pack has started the season 0-3. The start is not overly concerning as the Lady Pack opened the year against three strong teams. The most winnable of the Lady Pack’s first three contests was their 50-47 season-opening loss to Heritage Hills on Nov. 4. Their next two contests came against Mid-Southern Conference powers Eastern (Pekin) and Salem, both ranked in the top-10 in their respective classes.
Despite the winless first week, the Lady Pack looked to reverse their fortunes as they took part in the past weekend’s Battle at the First Capital at Corydon Central. The Lady Pack have had a strong history in the tournament, winning back-to-back titles in 2018 and 2019.
The Lady Pack’s first matchup, on Friday night, came against another strong team in Class 1A No. 11 Greenwood Christian Academy, which was coming off consecutive regional titles. The Lady Pack trailed for much of the contest but managed to get within a single possession with less than a minute left. The effort bore no fruit as the Lady Pack fell 55-50.
Now stuck in the loser’s bracket, the Lady Pack’s Saturday morning featured a tough, physical Southridge squad as their next foe. The result was a contest where neither team’s scoring reached the 20s until the latter stages of the fourth quarter before a late Lady Raiders run handed the Lady Pack another close defeat, 32-26.
Sitting at 0-5 on the season and 0-2 for the tournament, the Lady Pack looked to avoid finishing last in the tournament as they confronted Evansville Reitz for what was another tight contest.
“We’re just trying to find our identity right now, especially in game situations,” Lady Pack head coach Christopher Broughton said. “We’re trying to figure out who we are and what we’ll do in game situations, who needs to have the ball; that’s where we’re at right now.”
Senior forward Sarah Stutzman led the early scoring assault for the Lady Pack as she posted nine points for the period, two points shy of her total from the previous two contests. Stutzman’s early assault was assisted by three total free throws between senior Taylor Herbaugh and junior Natalie Stroud. The Lady Panthers countered with a more balanced attack led by four points from Novah Miller as well as a bucket each from Lindsey Bigham and 6-foot-4 center Kaelyse Mitchell, ending the opening frame trailing the Lady Pack 12-8.
Stutzman continued her offensive onslaught with another pair of buckets in the second quarter, though it was junior Emily Kerce who took command of the offense with five points, including the Lady Pack’s first three-pointer of the game, followed by a bucket from freshman Maddyson Sturgeon. The Lady Panthers’ offense in the period was powered by two buckets and a free throw from Mackenzie Shadrick alongside a triple from Carlee Effinger and field goals by Miller and Sydney Hart.
The Lady Pack got the last say in the first half when Stutzman’s second bucket of the period, a free-throw line jumper, tickled the twine right before the buzzer, sending the Lady Pack to the locker room with a 23-20 edge.
“For two or three quarters, we found (Reitz’s) shooters and did a good job with pressuring them,” Broughton said. “We felt like we took their big girl (Mitchell), who didn’t really play a lot, out of the game.”
Hart, Mitchell, Matea Bradfield and Alyssa Haynes each chipped in a bucket to comprise the Lady Panthers’ offense in the third quarter. The Lady Pack countered with more offense from beyond the arc with triples from Stutzman and senior guard Makaylin Sheckells. The low-scoring period ended with another last-second bucket when Stroud lifted a floater off an inbound pass to end the quarter with a 33-28 Lady Pack advantage.
Stutzman and Herbaugh kept the Lady Pack in front as they each chipped in their final five points of the night while Stroud added another bucket. The 12 total points in the period weren’t enough as the Lady Panthers closed the gap courtesy of six points from Miller, five from Bradfield and a bucket from Haynes.
The Lady Pack’s lead held fast up until the final 20.4 seconds on the clock. Receiving the inbound pass, Haynes stepped back before heaving another three-pointer, causing the small number of Reitz fans to explode to their feet as the shot swished through the net. With nine seconds remaining, Stutzman tried for one more inside basket, only for the shot to go into the long arms of Mitchell to seal the contest with a 46-45 Lady Panthers’ victory, allowing them to finish with one win at the First Capital.
Stutzman carried the Lady Pack’s offense with a game-high 23 points, followed by six points each from Stroud and Herbaugh. Miller led the way with 12 points, while Haynes chipped in nine.
The loss against the Lady Panthers made it the third straight contest where the Lady Pack entered the fourth quarter with the lead only to watch it fade away. The Battle at the First Capital was not the first instance of this happening to the last-place Lady Pack this season.
“I thought the kids did an excellent job of playing hard, and we executed our game plan,” Broughton said. “But all three games, we had the lead in the fourth quarter and couldn’t figure out how to close it out. It’s the same thing as two other games we’ve had in the regular season.”
The Lady Pack looked to turn their struggles around as they traveled to North Harrison yesterday (Tuesday). Their next target to enter their sights will be Tell City on Friday when the Lady Commodores come to Ramsey for an 8 p.m. tip.
Crawford County 12 11 10 12 – 45
Evansville Reitz 8 12 8 18 – 46
Crawford County (0-6) – Stutzman 23, Herbaugh 6, Stroud 6, Kerce 5, Sheckells 3, Sturgeon 2.
Evansville Reitz (5-2) – Miller 12, Haynes 9, Bradfield 7, Shadrick 5, Hart 4, Mitchell 4, Effinger 3, Bigham 2.
3-point goals – Crawford County 4 (Herbaugh 1, Kerce 1, Sheckells 1, Stutzman 1); Evansville Reitz 3 (Bradfield 1, Effinger 1, Haynes 1).
Crawford County 10 4 2 10 – 26
Southridge 14 2 1 15 – 32
Crawford County (0-5) – Stutzman 11, Kerce 5, Stroud 5, Sturgeon 5.
Southridge (2-3) – Montgomery 16, Keusch 6, Marshall 5, Goeppner 4, Wagner 1.
3-point goals – Crawford County 4 (Stutzman 2, Kerce 1, Sturgeon 1); Southridge 2 (Montgomery 2).
Crawford County 11 13 8 18 – 50
Greenwood Christian 11 17 12 15 – 55
Crawford County (0-4) – Stroud 17, Stutzman 11, Kerce 9, Herbaugh 5, Sturgeon 5, Sheckells 3.
Greenwood Christian (3-1) – Bigelow 21, Simon 15, Waldron 12, Odell 4, Grider 3.
3-point goals – Crawford County 3 (Herbaugh 1, Sheckells 1, Sturgeon 1); Greenwood Christian 4 (Waldron 2, Grider 1, Simon 1).