MERRYVILLE – A back-and-forth second quarter led to some late-game heroics from Elton as the Indians defeated Merryville.
The Panthers had a shot to take a lead in the waning seconds, but Elton came out with 73-71 win Friday night at Merryville High School.
"I thought we had too many turnovers," Merryville head coach Maurice Black said. "Our defense was a lot better. I can say that this is the best game we've played, by far, but we just came up short at the end. We were consistent and more aggressive than what we have been lately."
Elton and Merryville entered the fourth quarter tied at 59, but the Indians opened the period on a 5-0 run.
The Panthers cut the lead down to three win a layup by Ross Cournoyer. Cournoyer led all scorers with 24 points.
"He played and hustled out there," Black said. "He's just a sophomore. He's made a lot of improvement. This was probably the best game he's played this year. He really played hard and got after it. He gave us a big spark last year coming off the bench."
With just over two minutes to go, Elton led by three, but back-to-back layups by Zack Cleveland and Kole Royer gave the Panthers their first lead of the quarter.
"We wanted to try and stop them to run the fast break, if we could," Black said. "We ran our halfcourt offense pretty well, too."
With the ball under their basket with 17 seconds to go, Indian guard Shermon Bellow hit a layup and drilled the ensuing free throw to put Elton up 2.
Royer's shot with seconds left came up short, and the Indians claimed the win.
"I really wanted to hold it and control the clock for a little bit, but Royer saw an opening," Black said. "He had a height advantage but it came up low."
Each team struggled to find its rhythm in first half with each team entering the double bonus at the beginning of the second quarter.
"Fouls didn't effect us as much, but it did them," Black said. "We got a lot of free throws, but we missed a lot of them. That didn't help very much."
Merryville led 44-43 at halftime and by as many as five in the third quarter before entering the fourth tied up.
Royer, J.D. Reeves and Cleveland each finished with 15 points for the Panthers.
The loss drops the Panthers to 3-12 on the year and 1-3 in district play. Despite the slow start to the season, Black believes they can put together a run to make the playoffs.
"We just have to tighten it up and try to win as many as we can," Black said. "We want to move up to a higher level for the playoffs. That's the key. I'm not going to give up on them."