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By Saturday afternoon, Donnie Swiney knew he would have to step in the shoes of Tim Mudd and coach the Elizabethtown Lady Panthers in their biggest game of the season – on the road later that night against the surging North Hardin Lady Trojans with the No. 1 seed in next month’s 17th District Tournament on the line.
Any nerves for Elizabethtown’s veteran assistant?
“It’s wasn’t too bad,” Swiney said following his team’s 51-44 win at Ron Bevars Gymnasium. “I had to referee little league in the morning, so there were no nerves there. You have to just go with it.
“I trust our kids and they executed,” he added. “They did exactly what we wanted them to do. That’s all them. That’s nothing I did.”
It was only the second varsity game Swiney’s been in charge. He moved to 2-0 following a win over Fort Knox a few years back. It’s been so long since he had to step in, he couldn’t recall the exact date.
The Lady Panthers (16-5, 7-0 district) trailed for only 8:39, with none of the trailing time coming in the final 20 minutes after sophomore post Reauna Cleaver – who had 12 points and six rebounds before fouling out – hit a pair of free throws with 5:19 left in the first half to give Elizabethtown the lead for good at 16-15.
“I think we did a good job of adjusting,” said Elizabethtown freshman forward Erin Boley, who had game highs in points (20) and rebounds (11). “We all played hard and we kept our composure.”
Although it looked like Elizabethtown was losing its composure late. The Lady Panthers took their largest lead at 32-17 late in the first quarter as sophomore guard Livie Bowling found reserve senior forward Alexis Powell for an open basket in the lane.
The Lady Panthers took a pair of 14-point leads in the fourth quarter, but found their advantage down to 45-42 with 1:12 left after North Hardin reserve freshman guard Tamiah Stanford, who finished with 12 points and four rebounds, came up with a steal near midcourt and coasted in for the layup.
“We didn’t lay down,” said second-year North Hardin coach Chris Corder, whose team had won four straight overall and eight straight at home. “We had a chance to cut it to two or one but we couldn’t hit our free throws. And in a game like that, you have to break over that hump and we just couldn’t do it.”
Bowling got over the hump at the foul line. Entering the game shooting just 60 percent at the foul line and averaging just 3.5 points per game, Bowling scored all but two of her 10 points from the foul line, where she went 8-of-9. Her sudden foul-line success actually started with a miss.
“I’m psyched because I actually made my free throws,” said Bowling, who made seven free throws in the last 5:43, including four in the final 21 seconds, to keep the Lady Trojans (18-5, 4-2) at bay. “I don’t go to the free throw line a lot. But their coach was telling them to foul me and I handed it to them.”
Elizabethtown handed it to North Hardin in the second and third quarters, when reigning Area of the Year Chanel Roberts was on the bench. The North Hardin senior forward, who finished with 12 points and six rebounds, picked up two fouls in the first quarter and didn’t play in the second. She played sparingly in the third after picking up her third foul 42 seconds into the second half.
With Roberts out of the lineup, North Hardin struggled offensively. After Roberts made a spinning layup with 21 seconds left in the first quarter to help North Hardin match its largest lead at 15-11, the Lady Trojans didn’t make another field goal until Roberts made a putback with 1:04 left in the third quarter – a span of 15:17 without a field goal.
“She puts herself in bad spots to get those fouls, but it’s also frustrating because as you can tell, we’re a totally different team with her on the floor,” Corder said.
Senior guard Domeneque Taft tried to pick up the slack for the Lady Trojans, scoring their first six points and finishing with a team-high 15. She also had five rebounds.
The game locked up the pairings for next month’s district tournament. Top-seeded Elizabethtown will receive a bye and play the winner of Central Hardin and Fort Knox, which will be the fourth and fifth seeds. North Hardin will be in the 2-3 game with John Hardin in the other bracket.
“It’s definitely awesome,” Boley said of having the No. 1 seed locked up with one game left. “We’ve worked hard and it’s a big confidence booster. It was one of our goals. Our next goal is to win the district and I think we can do it.”
Mudd was missing because daughter Kinsey Mudd, a starting junior guard, was in the hospital again a few games after missing the John Hardin contest with kidney stones.
“It was a tough atmosphere to be in tonight, but we know Coach Mudd has our backs,” Bowling said. “We knew he wanted to be here and that made us want to play even harder for him and Kinsey.”
UP NEXT: Elizabethtown plays at No. 1 Marion County at 7:30 p.m. Thursday. North Hardin hosts John Hardin at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Nathaniel Bryancan be reached at (270) 505-1758 or firstname.lastname@example.org
NORTH HARDIN 44
Elizabethtown 12 1210 17—51
North Hardin 15 1 6 22—44
Team FG FT R TP
Elizabethtown 16-42 19-22 43 51
North Hardin 14-45 13-26 28 44
Player FG FT R TP
L. Bowling 1-3 8-9 4 10
Huff 0-4 0-0 5 0
A. Bowling 0-4 0-0 7 0
Boley 6-9 8-10 11 20
Cleaver 5-8 2-2 6 12
Downs 1-1 0-0 2 2
Warden 0-8 0-0 2 0
Powell 3-5 1-1 4 7
Player FG FT R TP
Taft 4-12 4-4 5 15
Jones 0-6 0-0 3 0
Roberts 5-9 2-4 6 12
Edmunds 0-1 0-0 1 0
Barrick 0-1 3-4 4 3
Pass 1-5 0-2 4 2
Stanford 4-11 4-12 4 12
3-POINTERS: ELIZABETHTOWN (0-12): Rachel Warden 0-5, Darien Huff 0-4, Anna Bowling 0-1, Erin Boley 0-1. NORTH HARDIN (3-14): Domeneque Taft 3-7, Kiera Jones 0-3, Zakayshia Pass 0-3, Tamiah Stanford 0-1. ASSISTS: ELIZABETHTOWN (8): Rachel Warden 3, Anna Bowling 2, Livie Bowling 2, Erin Boley 1. NORTH HARDIN (4): Chanel Roberts 2, Tamiah Stanford 2.