Just when Carroll County's boys basketball team looked to be hitting its stride, the Panthers were dealt a blow far worse than Friday night's 54-51 loss to host LaRue County in the National Guard Holiday Classic.

The Panthers, who entered the game just a 73-72 loss to Newport shy of a five-game win streak, were forced to play Friday without senior point guard Brandon Stewart, and they're going to have to start getting used to that in the future.

Stewart, who was banged up on a hard but clean foul in the Panthers' 54-49 win over Crittenden County Thursday night, has been diagnosed with a fractured wrist and will miss at least a few weeks if not the remainder of the 2011-12 season.

Even without its floor leader, Carroll led host LaRue 51-50 late in the fourth quarter on a basket inside by Dallas Gibson with 13 seconds left.

However, LaRue answered when Kelton Ford was fouled while shooting beyond the arc and made two-of-three free throws for a 52-51 lead. Carroll then turned the ball over with three seconds left and Ford hit two more foul shots for the final margin.

"The last 24 hours have not been good to Carroll County basketball," Panthers head coach Carroll Yager said. "I thought we were really coming together, too, but now we're going to have to try to move on without Brandon."

Yager said Stewart was driving to the basket against Crittenden County Thursday night when he was fouled hard and tumbled awkwardly to the floor, fracturing his wrist while using that arm to soften his fall from landing on his back.

"Brandon's been our starting point guard two years now. He's one of our key leaders, assists man and he handled the ball 90 percent of the time,"Yager said. "And, he'd just played one of the best games of his life the other night so we're going to really miss him. He's kind of our motor. Sometimes he has a calming effect on us and other times he's the motor that gets us going. Now we've got to find other people we can shift around so that we can have somebody in that role."

Stewart will visit an orthopedic specialist this coming week for a second opinion, but Yager fears the prognosis is not good. A bad wrist is a tough injury for a player who handles the ball as much as Stewart.

With Stewart out of the lineup, Carroll placed two players in double figures Friday night as Gibson scored 15 and Trey Boles had 12 while starting guards Austin Crowell (9), and Jacob Wise (7) combined for 16 points.

LaRue (7-5) countered with a game-high 30-point night by Ford, a senior guard who is averaging 22.7 points a game.

The teams were tied 25-25 at halftime before LaRue forged ahead by seven at the end of the third. Carroll stopped the Hawks from the field in the fourth quarter but LaRue County made 11-of-18 at the free throw line in the quarter - including 4-of-5 in the final 10 seconds to hold off the Panther comeback.

Carroll and LaRue shot an identical 71.4 percent from the foul line but LaRue took twice as many free throws and outscored the Panthers by 10 points at the stripe. That, combined with the fact that Carroll committed 23 turnovers without its normal ballhandler in the lineup, was more than enough to tip the outcome to the Hawks.

Carroll County (7-4) continues play in the National Guard Holiday Classic today in Hodgenville, Ky.

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FRIDAY'S BOYS GAME

National Guard Holiday Classic

LaRue County High School

at Hodgenville, Ky.



LARUE CO. 54, CARROLL CO. 51



CARROLL CO. 17 8 11 15 - 51

LARUE CO. 19 6 18 11 - 54



CARROLL CO. (7-4) - (F)Gibson 15, (f)Boles 12, (g)Crowell 9, (g)Wise 7, (c)Corbin 4, Damron 4, Adams 0, Booth 0.

LARUE CO. (7-5) - (g)Ford 30, (f)Howell 8, Schafer 7, (f)Key 6, (g)Harmon 3, (g)Coulter 0, Wiseman 0.



3-Point Goals - Carroll Co. 5 (Boles 3, Crowell 2), LaRue Co. 4 (Ford 3, Harmon 1). Free Throws - Carroll Co. 10-14 (71.4%), LaRue Co. 20-28 (71.4%). Total Fouls - Carroll Co. 20, LaRue Co. 13. Fouled Out - Carroll Co.: Crowell, LaRue Co. Key. Next Game - Both teams continue play in the National Guard Holiday Classic today.