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Panthers stop powerful Warriors

Feb. 2—Stone Memorial faced the White County Warriors on Tuesday night after winning its previous district game against DeKalb County. After dropping the first matchup in White County, the Panthers got revenge in a 46-39 final to try and jump start a win streak heading into the final stretch of regular season play.

SMHS head coach Neil Capps had one word to describe the win.

"Patience. We knew that after last game [White County] was going to be very patient, slow the ball down and make it a possession game. We were able to stretch it out and get a lead, but they kept crawling back."

"We didn't take our foot off the gas. We just kind of lost focus and started turning the ball over, they started getting momentum. I was really proud of the way down the stretch we were able to fight and claw and made plays when we needed to to finish out the game."

The first period started with both teams playing aggressive defense. A Stone Memorial steal and layup as time expired gave it a 6-4 lead heading into the second.

The Panthers' last basket of the first period spurred a 10-0 run over the first six minutes of the second quarter, led by Cade Capps and Brady Lane. White County stuggled to get anything on offense, going scoreless from behind the three-point line in the half.

Heading into the locker rooms, Stone Memorial held an 18-8 advantage.

Stone Memorial got into the bonus early in the second half and that helped them open a 10-4 run. White County slowed the run with an easy inside bucket and an and-one opportunity. Late in the period the Warriors hit two consecutive 3-pointers to bring the deficit to six and force a Panthers timeout with 1:38 remaining.

Offensively, the Panthers struggled to score in the final minutes and found themselves up only six, 33-27, as the period ended.

A big White County run to start the fourth quarter made it a three-point game. The Panthers hit a three to slow the run, and then got out in transition to increase the lead back to six.

Defensively, Stone Memorial stepped up again.

"Defense is something we have to key on. We've got to stay fundamental defensively. I was really happy with how we finished out there. We were starting to get stops, deflections and strips," Capps said.

The Panthers increased the lead to 10 with just under a minute remaining, and held on to the 46-39 win. Execution in the final minutes was key, according to Capps.

"I'm a firm believer that to win postseason games you've got to play defense, rebound and execute in the half-court. You've got to be able to execute sets in the halfcourt to get a good look late, to get something around the rim, to give you a chance. A lot of games in the postseason are a one-possession game."

"You want to keep the kids comfortable, you want to give them something that's relatively comfortable when it's really chaotic in the fourth quarter. Get them in a play they're used to and execute as a team to get what they're looking for," said Capps.

Capps finished the game with 20 points, but Stone Memorial also got key contributions from Lane and Braiden Elliott, who combined for 18.

"When we got a 10-point lead back, Cade didn't score a point there. It was his teammates that were stepping up. If we're going to do anything as we get into February, hopefully March, it's going to take all five. We can't let defenses key in on Cade. We've got to have other guys that are willing to go in and make plays, and down the stretch [tonight] we sure did," said Capps.

The Panthers now stand at 15-8 and 5-2 in district play. Their next matchup is at Livingston Academy on Feb. 2. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.