By Bryan Gaskins
Tribune sports editor
RUSSIAVILLE — Western used hot 3-point shooting in the first half to stretch Carroll’s zone defense, then attacked inside more in the second half in posting a 61-50 victory in boys basketball action Saturday night at Richard R. Rea Gymnasium.
“We assumed [the Cougars] were going to go zone on us — didn’t know if it was going to be a 2-3 or a 3-2. We were prepared and I felt our guys executed well for the most part,” Western coach Bart Miller said. “I would have liked to have been able to attack more inside out, but we’ll take whatever we can get. It’s nice when you are knocking down those 3s.”
The Panthers (8-4) drilled six 3-pointers in the opening half en route to a 30-22 halftime edge. Wing Austin Weaver had the hot hand, hitting two triples in the opening quarter and two more in the second quarter.
“We had a mishap in the first half. The scouting report was Weaver could shoot the 3 really well and we lost him a few times,” Carroll coach Matt Weaver said. “Part of the problem was letting guys penetrate and then kick and then they swung it around really fast and we’re chasing. A couple times, we just lost awareness of where he was versus maybe another guy we didn’t have to cover out there so hard.”
The Panthers kept the Cougars at bay in the second half. Post players Ronnie Smith and Austin Townsend combined for 15 points and attacking guard Des Balentine scored seven points on the strength of three pull-up jumpers in the lane area.
Smith finished with a game-high 16 points. Weaver had 15 points on five 3-pointers, Townsend had 11 points, Balentine had 10 and Warden had nine on three 3-pointers.
Eric Miller led the Cougars (6-5) with 12 points and Ryan Spesard and Jarin Bush had 11 apiece. Bush offered a nice spark with nine points in the third quarter.
Carroll played without point guard Brady Wiles, who suffered a severe ankle sprain in the Cougars’ loss to Twin Lakes on Friday. The Cougars finished with 17 turnovers while Western had just nine.
“Turnovers ended up being a huge factor for us. We had about double the turnovers that Western did and if you look at the shooting percentages, [turnovers were] a big difference,” Weaver said.
Carroll shot 20 of 38 (52.6 percent) from the field. Western shot 23 of 50 (46 percent).
“We have to learn how to match a team’s physicality and pressure overall,” Weaver said. “We have to have better spacing, cutting and screening to get guys open and in position.”
The taller Cougars had just a 26-23 advantage on the boards, a big plus for the Panthers after they were out-rebounded 50-20 in a loss to West Lafayette last week. Against the Cougars, Townsend had eight rebounds and Smith had seven.
“During the week, we did a lot of rebounding drills because West Lafayette kind of embarrassed us,” Smith said. “Me and Austin Townsend kind of pride ourselves on our rebounding, try to average the most out of the entire [Mid-Indiana Conference], and West Lafayette really took it to us. So in practice, we worked really hard on rebounding. We came out [Saturday] and executed the way we needed to.”
Western held a moment of silence before the game for longtime statistician and supporter Fred Myers, who passed away Monday.
“It was pretty good to come out and win this one for him,” Smith said, noting Myers’ widow, Emily, was there to support the team as always. “We all went to the viewing as a team. We all wrote on our shoes, ‘Rest in peace Freddie.’ We did this one for him, for sure.”
• Earlier Saturday, Western’s JV team won the Howard County Tournament, beating Eastern 38-22 in the final at Northwestern. Davon McClung led the Panthers with 12 points and James Myers added nine. Western’s JV followed with a 44-27 victory over Carroll. McClung and Gabe Harp had 11 apiece in that game.