TEAM DEFENSE: Carroll County’s Isaiah Hogan (above, left), John Michael Adams and Jacob Wise (right) surround Eminence point guard Jalen Dixie during Monday’s 31st District opener. The Panthers’ Blake Kruzan goes to the basket (below) over the defense of the Warriors’ Mitchell Golden. Dixie scored 22 points and Eminence pulled out the 71-65 win. (Staff photos by David Campbell)
TEAM DEFENSE: Carroll County’s Isaiah Hogan (above, left), John Michael Adams and Jacob Wise (right) surround Eminence point guard Jalen Dixie during Monday’s 31st District opener. The Panthers’ Blake Kruzan goes to the basket (below) over the defense of the Warriors’ Mitchell Golden. Dixie scored 22 points and Eminence pulled out the 71-65 win. (Staff photos by David Campbell)
Eminence caught fire from the 3-point arc and used that to pull away from Carroll County 71-65 in the opening round of the boys 31st District Tournament on Monday in Carrollton.

The Warriors' outside shooting was held largely in check by Carroll County in the first half and the result was a 30-26 Panther lead.

But starting with a Trevor Payton bomb to open the third quarter, Eminence seemingly could not miss from the arc. The Warriors hit seven threes in the third quarter alone - four from Jalen Dixie - and Eminence went 10-of-21 (48 percent) overall from outside.

That shooting, coupled with a 12-of-24 performance from the free-throw line, spelled the end of Carroll County's postseason run after just one game on the Panthers' home court.

"One team wins the state championship and every other team ends the season with a loss," Carroll County head coach Carroll Yager said. "We were joking before the game that since we're not going to win the state championship our season was going to end with a loss. I was just hoping it was going to last a little longer than it did."

Carroll County (14-14) struggled from the start with missed shots and found itself down by three (16-13) after a quarter and 22-19 midway through the second quarter.

But the Panthers came alive and closed the half on an 11-4 run to take a 30-26 lead into halftime.

Payton's 3-pointer just 15 seconds into the third quarter kickstarted an Eminence run that gave the Warriors the lead for good. Eminence's first five baskets in the quarter came from beyond the arc as the visitors soared ahead.

Dixie, who was held to just six points in the first half, tripled his total on four shots in the third.

"We knew Dixie can get hot and I thought Jacob Wise did a good job on him defensively," Yager said. "Some of those shots he made were with a hand in his face. He's a good player."

It wasn't just Dixie that got into the act. Cornelius Sanford hit two 3-pointers of his own, part of a 27-point night that also included 15 rebounds. Sanford's 3-pointer with 16 seconds left in the third staked Eminence to a 53-47 lead.

The Warriors (7-20) got another three from Sanford and baskets from Payton and Sanford to go up eight (60-52) in the fourth before Carroll County rallied. The Panthers went on a 10-4 run and closed the gap to 64-62 on a Wise steal and lay-up with 3:11 to go.

But any chance Carroll had at a comeback was thwarted by Eminence's free-throw shooting and ball-handling. A Sanford basket put the Warriors ahead 66-62 with 2:51 left and Carroll quickly missed a shot on the other end.

Eminence then went into a delay that worked perfectly. The Warriors blew nearly two minutes of game time before Carroll finally but them on the line with 49.9 seconds left. Mitchell Golden responded with two free throws to push the margin to six.

Carroll County had only five team fouls during the delay stretch and seemed content to play defense rather than foul to save time. It was not what Yager had planned.

"I was trying to get them to foul but I guess they couldn't hear me because of the crowd noise," Yager said. "It hurt because we weren't in the bonus yet."

Austin Crowell cut the lead to four with a basket and Sanford answered with a free throw on the other end to keep the margin at five with 39 seconds left.

John Michael Adams drew a foul on the other end for Carroll County with 26 seconds left but hit just one free throw. Dixie missed the front end of a bonus free throw but the Panthers missed two 3-pointers to seal their fate.

Golden then hit a pair of free throws with 14.7 seconds left for the final margin.

Sanford (27 points) and Dixie (22) combined for the bulk of Eminence's scoring. The pair were a combined 12-of-23 from the floor and had 20 rebounds.

Carroll County had a very balanced attack in its final game. Isaiah Hogan, Austin Crowell and Dakota Corbin had 11 points each and Wise and Blake Kruzan scored 10 each. Corbin added eight rebounds and four assists.

Eminence advances to the semifinal round where it will face top-seeded Gallatin County on Wednesday. For Carroll County it's the offseason.

"It's been a good year. We won the All 'A' and had a lot of success this year," Yager said. "It may not seem like it now to the guys but they'll realize soon the kind of year they had. I'm proud of them."

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31ST DISTRICT TOURNAMENT

Monday's Opening Round

at Carrollton, Ky.

EMINENCE 71, CARROLL CO. 65



EMINENCE 16 10 27 18 - 71

CARROLL CO. 13 17 17 18 - 65



EMINENCE (7-20) - (f)Sanford 27, (g)Dixie 22, (g)Payton 8, (c)Golden 8, (f)Armstrong 6, McKinley 0, Wells 0, Hoofman 0, Hanlon 0.

CARROLL CO. (14-14) - (g)Hogan 11, (g)Crowell 11, (c)D. Corbin 11, (f)Wise 10, Kruzan 10, (f)Adams 9, Donahue 3, Ray 0.



3-Point Goals - Eminence 10 (Dixie 4, Sanford 4, Payton 2), Carroll Co. 3 (Hogan 2, Donahue 1). Rebounds - Eminence 37 (Sanford 15), Carroll Co. 29 (D. Corbin 8). Assists - Eminence 11 (Dixie 3, Payton 3), Carroll Co. 12 (Adams 4, D. Corbin 4). Turnovers - Eminence 12, Carroll Co. 9. Total Fouls - Eminence 16, Carroll Co. 13. Free Throws - Eminence 7-10, Carroll Co. 12-24. Fouled Out - None. Next Game - Eminence faces Gallatin Co. in the 31st District semifinals Wednesday. Carroll Co.'s season ends.