Knightstown’s second-half adjustments included keeping a closer watch on Hagerstown’s Hayley Rogers.
The Panthers’ persistence paid off. Rogers finished with a game-high 18 points, but Knightstown’s dogged defense kept the Tigers off the scoreboard for a large chunk of time in Thursday’s season-opening 46-35 victory.
Hagerstown held a 29-22 advantage with 5:58 to play in the third quarter — but the next 17 points all went to the Panthers.
By the time Courtney Rogers scored late in the fourth quarter, more than 10 minutes had passed and Knighstown had surged to a 39-32 lead.
“I was really, really proud of them,” said Hagerstown coach Chris Oliger. “I got a brand new group on the basketball floor. We played defense. We had a few mistakes, but that’s all right. We’re going to learn. We’re going to get better. We got shots. We just couldn’t put them in the basket. And that (Knightstown) is a good team.”
Hayley Rogers netted 12 of her points in the first half and 17 of them by the third quarter.
Keeping Rogers away from the basket was paramount for coach Dawn Basicker’s squad in the second half.
“We went more man (on defense), tried to take the ball out of (Rogers’) hands,” Basicker said. “We tried to make other people make adjustments and go from there, rather than letting her dictate and just cutting. We tried to do a better job of keeping her from getting the basketball.”
Freshman Gabby Willis added six points for the Tigers, while Olivia Robinson netted five and grabbed a team-high six rebounds.
Courtney Rogers and Madison Houck each had five rebounds for Hagerstown.
“There were a lot of positives,” Oliger said.
One of those positives included the 22-19 lead Hagerstown took into halftime. Willis snapped a 19-all tie when she calmly launched a long 3-pointer at the buzzer.
“They’re only going to get better,” Oliger said of his team.
” … Lots of things to work on, to get better, but we really are a young team. You’ve got to get varsity experience to get better. I thought they did a good job. I was pleased, not with the outcome, but pleased with what I saw on the court and what we could do. We’re going to get better.”
Emily Thomas led Knightstown with 13 points and 12 rebounds, while teammate Patty Jones added nine points and five boards.
Jill Gross also scored seven points to go with eight rebounds for the Panthers (1-0).
“It’s always nice to get a win, but it wasn’t pretty, by any means,” Basicker said. “We’re kind of like Hagerstown where we have three kids with some experience, but we’re very young.”
Hagerstown (0-1) returns to action Nov. 16 at Monroe Central.