FRANKFORT — The Hoosier Heartland Conference girls basketball showdown between Carroll and Clinton Prairie was a classic matchup of explosive offense vs. stingy defense.
The Class 2A No. 10-ranked Cougars came in with offensive average of 69.6 points per game, which ranked No. 2 in the state regardless of class. The Class 2A No. 8 Gophers countered with a defensive average of 32.2, which ranked No. 10.
Carroll was coming off a school-record 101-point explosion against Frontier on Monday, but the Gophers contained the Cougars’ attack to take a 63-43 win.
“Team defense was key to the game,” Prairie coach Amie Anthrop said. “Carroll has those three big scorers [Alli Harness, Madison Wagner and Megan Wagner] who are fantastic. Harness is probably one of the better players I’ve ever seen. I don’t know what she finished with, but it was well below her average.”
Prairie held Carroll standout Harness to 14 points, 10 below her average. Prairie’s heavy focus on Harness limited the Cougar freshman to 10 shots from the field.
The Gophers kept the Cougars from developing any rhythm by pressuring them all over the court. Carroll finished with 22 turnovers.
“I watched probably six of their games coming into this game and I didn’t see a team that pressed them. That’s the way we play,” Anthrop said. “They play very fast, but I think our press really caused them to play even faster.”
Tynlie Neal led the Gophers’ offense. She poured in 30 points, including 20 in a dominant first half.
“From the [Gophers’] first possession of the game where she nailed a 3 to the closing free throws at the end of the game, she was the best player on the floor [Thursday],” Carroll coach Brady Wiles said. “She really had her way we were unable to slow her down — great scoring, but she also created for her teammates and got rid of the ball when she was guarded. Great game from one of the best players in our conference.”
The Gophers improved to 14-2 overall and 5-0 in the HHC while the Cougars dropped to 14-3 and 4-1. Prairie and Sheridan (3-0) lead the conference race with Carroll falling a game off the lead.
Prairie took control in the first half when it forced Carroll into 15 turnovers. The Gophers built a 27-15 lead midway through the second quarter before the Cougars rallied to within four, 29-25, at halftime.
Twice in the third quarter, Carroll closed to within two (32-30 and 37-35) but Prairie outscored Carroll 11-2 over the final 3:20 of the quarter to build a 48-37 lead.
The Gophers kept a double-digit lead throughout the final quarter.
For Wiles, Carroll’s turnovers was the difference in the game.
“They were able to speed us up in the wrong ways and credit their defensive pressure and their defense overall. They were able to get back in transition, they were able to sprint back and didn’t give us any looks the whole night,” he said.
Madison Wagner led the Cougars with 16 points. Megan Wagner added 11.
Prairie’s Anthrop loved what Neal provided her squad.
“WLFI just did a story on Harness and the amount of shots she takes after practice. Well, that’s Tynlie for us. She’s in here after practice for an hour getting up shots and [Thursday] it paid off,” she sad. “When the ball is in her hands, we’re a really good team. I’m proud of her for how she stepped up.”