By Allen Hamrick
Well, the season ended for the CCHS Panthers as they took a run toward the state championship this past week. The Panthers have cracked the whip and had a whale of a regular season, finishing with a 12-3 record. They also notched the Regional Championship by defeating Frankfurt in a Region II championship game and finally made it to the Elite 8 – the top eight AA teams in the state – to go head to head with the best.
Unfortunately, the window of opportunity closed for a state championship as they were defeated in the first round by Chapmanville. It may have as well been a championship game because it had all the atmosphere of a final game. The Panthers, to my knowledge, had never met Chapmanville in a match. Chapmanville came into the game with a couple of state championships under their belt but also had not played a force such as the Clay County Panthers. Neither team burnt the boards up in either the first or second halves as both defenses played a game at new levels.
The Panthers had a tough time getting the ball inside where a lot of their points are scored, and at the same time, the Panther defense took out the perimeter shooting capabilities of Chapmanville. So, if you didn’t think it was a defensive game, try a score of 16-13 at the half with the Panthers in the lead. The Panthers drew first blood with a three point shot from Curtis Litton to get the game rolling, and with several attempts by both teams to get points on the board, they were hard to come by. Chapmanville took an early lead hitting for six unanswered points by the Panthers, and at the end of the first period, the score stood at 5-11 for Chapmanville.
In the second period, the Panther defense turned the game up a notch and held Chapmanville to just two points while the Panther offense started getting the ball inside and racked up 11 points to end the half in the lead by the score of 16-13. It looked as though the Panthers were firing on all cylinders and were going to make it to the next round of the tournament. The teams went back and forth in the third period, both having a difficulty getting points on the board. Chapmanville started getting past the Panthers defense inside the paint and took the lead by scoring three layups in the last two minutes of the third period. The score stood at Panthers 23, Chapmanville 25. The game was still too hard to call at this point as neither team was showing an advantage over the other, but Chapmanville had the momentum. The fourth period began, and one could tell it was a slightly different game as the Panthers and Chapmanville both turned the heat on offense and had their best scoring period. However, it was Chapmanville that had the edge by hitting some three pointers that the Panthers couldn’t answer. In the end, it was Chapmanville over the Panthers by the score of 38-46.
Turnovers will force a game into a nail biter, especially if the other team can capitalize on them. The Panthers had 19 turnovers in the game, and Chapmanville was able to use them to their advantage in the second half. Eight of Chapmanville’s points came on fast breaks in the second half, and the Panthers had their chance but just couldn’t get the ball in the hoop. The Panthers had the advantage in rebounds with 38 but couldn’t capitalize on them. This, although asymmetrical, seems to be some of the deciding factors in the game, and combined with the Panthers not being able to buy a basket with a thousand dollar bill, led to an early trip home. The Panthers can hold their heads up high – they had a great season, gave a hundred percent to the cause of the game and gave the Panther fans all they had all season. They will be considered as one of the best teams to ever put on the jersey. Top shot for the Panthers was Curtis Litton with 15 points followed by Tanner Faulkner with 12. Four of the five starters: Caleb Atha, Tanner Faulkner, Grant Krajeski and Elijah Payton will not return as Panthers, but they will be remembered as a group of boys that solidified the Panther name in the stone and will be considered some of the best that ever played at CCHS. It is time to rebuild for next season for another shot at the championship. With plenty of talent still left on the team, the CCHS Panthers will no doubt be back in the limelight come spring of 2022. Congratulations Panthers on a great season!