MECCA – The regular season ended in disappointment for Fountain Central’s girls basketball team with a 49-28 WRC loss to Riverton Parke.
The loss drops the Mustangs to 10-12 for the season as they head into sectional action next week, while the Panthers take a hot hand into the postseason, winning six of their last eight and getting to even on the season at 10-10.
Both teams finish at 4-3 in the conference.
The visitors were never able to find the range in the Panthers gym and coupled with a tough turnover night, it was a start-to-finish lead for Riverton Parke.
Another factor for the Mustangs was the loss of KayLee Spragg to an ACL injury three games ago. The loss of the sophomore starter was part of the reason FC struggled defensively.
“She (Spragg) was such an important part of our defense,” FC coach Sam Kerr said. “I’m so proud of how hard the girls have battled since she was hurt, but we just don’t have that player that did what she did, and to replace her this late in the season is difficult.”
The Panthers, honoring their seniors on the last night of the regular season, used that experience at several levels.
Lexi Nowicki, injured about a month ago, got a Senior Night start, played one second, and went back to the bench, but her presence sparked the crowd.
Bailey Duke had the crowd counting all game as she closed in on, and finally grabbed, her 16th rebound of the game that gave her 1,000 for her career, the first player in Riverton Parke history to get to four digit rebounding. When she grabbed the needed ball, the game was again stopped and she was rightfully honored by both teams.
Macey Barnes was the third senior to gas up the crowd, as she led her team with 15 points, including a 4-of-5 stretch in the second quarter when RP pulled away.
“Duke is our motor,” Panthers coach Jared Garman said. “As she goes, we go. She worked so hard in the offseason and she had some goals for the team, which included a winning record and getting that thousand rebounds. We pulled even on the record and she got the thousand. We need Barnes as we go forward, however, and it was really important to see her have the great game she had tonight. I’ve been on her pretty good recently about being the leader we need.”
Duke, who is heading to Lincoln Trail JC to play college softball, had 14 points and finished yet another double-double with 17 rebounds. Sophomore guard Haylee Mathas also had 14 points, as the Panthers were 19-of-53 from the field, 3-of-13 from deep and 8-of-12 from the line. They finished with 14 turnovers, which the Mustangs turned into eight points.
There was a big difference in the turnover story on the other side, however, as FC turned the ball over 19 times, and RP put up 17 points as a result.
“The only way we can play is to stop people,” Karr noted. “We didn’t have enough stops tonight, and the turnovers were a problem that we will work on for next week.”
The Mustangs were led in scoring by Kacey Kirkpatrick. The junior had eight points and four rebounds.
Brailey Hoagland finished with seven points and led her squad with 12 rebounds.
“She (Hoagland) has been in double-figure scoring the last couple games, helping to fill in what we are missing from Spragg,” Karr said. “She has really stepped up.”
The Mustangs were 8-of-43 from the floor, 1-of 15 from long range and 11-of-31 from the line. They did win the rebound battle 49-44. Madisyn Morgan and Rylee Simko each had five to follow Hoagland.
Both teams head into the first round of sectional action next week.
The Panthers will play South Putnam next Wednesday in Greencastle, while the Mustangs head to Attica to play North Vermillion next Tuesday.
“We will try to put some pressure on South Put like we did on Fountain Central,” Garman said. “We beat them in a close game in the regular season and had a good fourth quarter. They are a really good team and we know it will be a battle, Our goal is to get that one first and live to play another day. We would love to get to Saturday.”
The Mustangs will regroup as they prepare for the postseason.
“I guarantee you, this group will play hard,” Karr said. “We just have to re-establish our continuity a bit, and play hard. We will relish the underdog role. We beat North Vermillion earlier in the season, and we know we can compete with them. We will work to fix a couple things and hope for a little luck.”
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