Needing a statement win, the Jackson County girls' basketball team certainly got one.
The Panthers pulled off their biggest victory of the year — and of the past few seasons — with a 61-58 road win Friday (Jan. 10) over Hart County (9-8, 5-2 Region 8-AAA), last year’s Class AAA runner-up and defending Region 8-AAA champion.
Carson Anderson led the Panthers (4-14, 2-5 Region 8-AAA) with 17 points, and Mikenna Duffy added 15 points for the Panthers, who rallied from a 12-point deficit to earn their second region win of the year.
The Panthers lost by 20 points to Hart County earlier this year at home.
"This was a huge win for our program and a very big boost in confidence for this team," coach Julie McCutcheon said. "Our defense stayed relentless throughout the game and never gave up."
Jackson County trailed 48-36 during the third quarter, but narrowed the gap to 48-43 by the start of the fourth quarter. The Panthers fell down by double figures again (54-44) in the final frame, but went on a 13-2 run to take the lead, going ahead (57-56) with a basket from Ashlyn Thompson.
Jackson County held off Hart County the rest of the way in snapping a two-game losing streak.
"We stayed even with Hart County in the first half but had a few minutes in the third quarter that we dropped off, and they went ahead of us by 12 points," McCutcheon said. "Throughout the fourth quarter, we clawed back into the game with quality offensive possessions and excellent execution."
A crucial point in the game came with three minutes left when both a Hart County player and their coach were called for technical fouls.
"This gave us the momentum we needed to push into the lead where we controlled the game from the free-throw line," McCutcheon said.
The coach said the victory was a substantial one.
"This may be the most quality win that I can remember during my tenure at JCCHS over a much higher ranked team," she said. "I hope this win is proof to our team that we are moving in the right direction and the opportunity is still open in our region to get state berth. Don't count us out. These young ladies are tough and have already fought through so much adversity this season to get to where they are now."
The Panthers return to action Tuesday (Jan. 14, 6 p.m.) at home against Monroe Area.