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Based on how they’re feeling, the Elizabethtown Lady Panthers admittedly played Thursday night like the recent weather – lousy.
Although they weren’t at their best, they were easily able to overpower the young and struggling Central Hardin Lady Bruins, 63-18 on Terry Buckles Court to run their winning streak against area teams to 47.
Elizabethtown, the seven-time defending 17th District Tournament champion, hasn’t lost to an area team since suffering a 57-52 loss at North Hardin on Jan. 16, 2009.
Playing an overmatched opponent which has now lost 11 straight, the Lady Panthers (11-4, 4-0 district) were never in much danger inside Bruin Gym. They opened with an 8-0 run and scored 33 points off 25 turnovers.
Still, they barely outrebounded the smaller Lady Bruins, 28-26 and committed 12 turnovers (eight unforced). They also allowed the Lady Bruins (1-12, 0-4) to score on three straight possessions late in the first half after holding Central Hardin to just one field goal and three free throws in the opening 14 minutes.
Elizabethtown scored 42 points in the first 14 minutes, but had just 21 points in the final 18.
“Truthfully, I wasn’t pleased with a whole lot,” said veteran Elizabethtown coach Tim Mudd, whose team played its eighth game in 14 days. “I think the girls are a little tired and there just wasn’t a whole lot to write home about tonight.”
One bright spot for Elizabethtown was the play of its young inside tandem. Freshman forward Erin Boley hit all eight of her foul shots and scored a game-high 25 points before watching the fourth quarter from the bench.
“We need to reach down and find another side of ourselves,” said first-year Central Hardin coach Kristina Covington, an All-State player in her high school days at Elizabethtown. “Like when Erin Boley is going off like that, someone needs to step up and say, ‘I’m going to stop you. I’m not going to continue to let you get that many points.’”
Elizabethtown sophomore center Reauna Cleaver, who picked up two early fouls, finished with nine points and four rebounds. More importantly, she made 3-of-4 free throws when the foul line has been an adventure the past two seasons.
“You noticed that, did you?” Cleaver joked about her free-throw percentage, which was below 60 percent at one point last season. “It’s been amazing, but I’ve also changed my form at the line as far as my positioning like five times already this season. Well, at least three or four.”
Central Hardin had no such luck at the foul line and for a while, didn’t even have a free throw percentage. The Lady Bruins missed their first 11 foul shots before making 5-of-8.
Elizabethtown got a boost from sophomore guard Darien Huff, who scored 10 points in 20 minutes on a perfect shooting night. She was 4-of-4 from the field, making back-to-back 3-pointers in the second quarter in a span of 40 seconds to prompt Covington to call her second timeout of the half.
“I think D-Huff stepped up and ran the team well and shot the ball well,” Mudd said of Huff, who was limited in practice because she was sick.
Another Lady Panther under the weather, sophomore guard Livie Bowling, didn’t even dress. But her older sister did as senior guard Anna Bowling had four assists in her first appearance in eight games after suffering a neck injury in mid-December.
“Now hopefully I can stay back,” said Anna Bowling, who was hampered by a back injury last season.
Mudd said he was feeling sick, too, and Central Hardin eighth-grade guard Ellen Nichols didn’t play because she was ill. Even Covington wasn’t completely healthy as she was wearing a walking boot on her right foot after straining some ligaments last week.
In spite of the score, Covington said there was a silver lining.
“Our goal is still to win every game, but we’re looking at the bigger picture right now for the Lady Bruins,” she said. “We never want to accept a loss, but now we’re starting to understand what we’re doing wrong and what we need to do to improve.”
UP NEXT: Elizabethtown plays at Adair County at 8 p.m. Saturday. Central Hardin plays at Hart County at 8 p.m. Monday.
Nathaniel Bryan can be reached at (270) 505-1758 or email@example.com.