By CHRIS STONER
A game can’t be won in the first quarter, but it sure can be lost.
Charlestown found out this cruel fact the hard way Saturday night and fell to visiting Corydon Central, 60-50.
The Pirates trailed 21-3 at the end of the first period, then somehow clawed back within 37-36 early in the fourth, but eventually lost to the Mid-Southern Conference rival Panthers for the seventh straight time.
“I don’t think we believed we could win when we stepped on the floor,” Pirates head coach Sean Smith said. “I don’t know why. We’ve played the same teams [Corydon has] played and had very similar scores, so I don’t know what the deal was tonight.”
Charlestown (9-6, 4-3 MSC) got off on the wrong foot by turning the ball over on its first three possessions and finding itself in an 11-0 hole right off the bat.
The hosts went on to give the ball away eight times in the opening frame and watched the Panthers (12-4, 5-2) shoot 60 percent in the first eight minutes.
“We had some costly turnovers early, there’s no doubt about that,” said Smith, whose team would go on to commit just two turnovers over the final three periods. “We did show some resiliency and came back and cut it all the way down to one.”
The Pirates fought back to get into the conference game with its second quarter defense. Charlestown forced five Corydon giveaways and cut its deficit down to single digits going to the locker room, trailing 30-21.
“Our goal was to get it down to an eight point game at half,” Smith said of the second quarter. “At halftime we talked about how it was 21-3 at the end of the first and now we’re only down nine. We just needed to get the thing down to four or five going to the fourth.”
Charlestown’s defense and its leading scorer rose to the occasion in the third stanza.
The Pirates held Corydon to 2-of-12 shooting and Aaron Daniel pumped in 10 of his game-high 22 in the third as the home team closed within 37-33 going to the final frame.
The Pirates moved within 37-36 after a Drew Reich free throw, but the Panthers then ripped off a 10-0 run to regain control of the game.
Chris Braun scored nine of his 16 in the fourth, but it was too little, too late as Corydon hit 10 of its 12 free throws over the final eight minutes to secure its fifth win in its last six games.
“At the end of the day, whether people like it or not, Aaron and Chris have to lead the team,” Smith said. “When they go, we go. This is not a two-dimensional team by any means, but they create for other players and get a lot of rebound and hustle plays.
“They’re great players. We rely on those two a lot. That’s just reality. They do a ton for us and we need other guys to step up and support them.”
Charlestown is back in action Thursday night when it travels to North Harrison (11-4, 5-2) for another conference game.