The Knox Central Panthers are moving on to play for their second consecutive regional championship after downing the South Laurel Cardinals 65-62 on Saturday.
The Panthers were led in scoring by Jevonte Turner with 19 points. He was followed by Zach Patterson with 18, Kevionte Turner with 16, Isaac Mills with nine and Jacob Abner with three.
The Cardinals were led by Matt Cromer with 20 points. He was followed by Micah Anders with 12, Brett Norvell with 10, Cayden Jones and Parker Payne with seven each, Alex Hostettler with four and Ford Breeding with two.
The Knox Central Panthers opened the first quarter on a 7-0 run before South Laurel was forced to take a timeout to halt the early game momentum. Out of the timeout, Matt Cromer scored the Cardinals’ first points of the game by connecting on a three pointer, bringing the score to 7-3. Knox Central then went on a 6-0 run that was ended by another South Laurel three pointer. The Cardinals continued to chip away at the Panthers’ lead. Knox Central held a slim 15-12 advantage at the end of the first period.
South Laurel opened the second quarter on a 4-1 run to tie the game with just under six minutes remaining in the period. With 4:53 remaining in the second, the Cardinals took their first lead of the game, 19-16. On the ensuing play, Jevonte Turner tied the game at 19-19 with a three-point shot. With the game knotted at 24-24 with 10 seconds remaining in the first half, the Cardinals took a 26-24 lead on a pair of free throws, which they took into the half.
The Panthers tied the game at 28-28 before Zach Patterson connected on a three-point shot and a free throw, completing the four-point play and giving Knox Central their first lead of the second half at 32-30. Patterson added a free throw moments later to extend the lead to 33-30. With South Laurel drawing back to within one-point, Kevionte Turner gave the Panthers some breathing room with a baseline jumper. Leading 35-34, Knox Central went on a 6-0 run to take a 41-34 lead and force a timeout from the Cardinals. In the final minute and a half of the third quarter, each team added a bucket each, leaving the Panthers with a 43-37 advantage heading into the final stanza.
With 6:33 remaining in the final quarter, Knox Central extended its lead to the largest of the game at 48-37 before the Cardinals pulled back to within single digits on the ensuing play. Isaac Mills then connected on a pair of free throws to stretch the lead back out to 11-points, 50-39. South Laurel opened up a 7-2 run to pull back to within six points at 52-46 with four minutes remaining in the game. A dispute at the scorers table halted the game for nearly five minutes before play resumed.
With three and a half minutes remaining, the Panthers led 56-49. A pair of Cromer free throws pulled the Cardinals back to within five points, 56-51. A free throw from J. Turner brought the Panthers’ lead to an even six points before South Laurel pulled back to within a single possession at 57-54 with one and a half minutes remaining. Moments later, K. Turner connected on a pair of free throws to extend the Knox Central lead back to two possessions, 59-54. A three-point shot from Anders drew the Cardinals back to within striking distance yet again at 59-57 with one-minute remaining in regulation. With less than one-minute remaining, K. Turner connected on another pair of free throws to re-extend the Panthers’ lead to 61-57.
The Cardinals were in the double bonus and stepped to the charity stripe and connected on a pair of free throws to make it a two-point game again at 61-59 with 38-seconds left. With less than 30-seconds left on the clock, K. Turner secured a defensive rebound and was fouled, allowing him another trip to the charity stripe where he had been successful all game. This trip was no different as he connected on both free throws to give the Panthers a 63-59 lead with 22-seconds remaining. A very quick three-point shot from South Laurel drew them back to within one-point with 20-seconds left in regulation. Two free throws from Patterson gave the Panthers some breathing room at 65-62, but remained at one possession, with 12.1 seconds remaining. A game-tying attempt from South Laurel fell short, leaving the Panthers in their second consecutive regional championship game.