Tuesday night was a big night for the Dawson Springs Panthers, who knocked off Fort Campbell 56-43 in the opening round of the 2nd Region All “A” Classic to advance for the first time in 24 years.

Dating back to the 1979-80 season, the All “A” Classic was created to give small Kentucky schools that often lacked the size to compete against bigger schools a chance to compete for a state championship. Starting in northern Kentucky, the classic went statewide in 1990, and for several years in the late 90s the Panthers were contenders at the regional level.

In 1996, 97 and 99, Dawson Springs finished as the Region 2 All “A” Runner-up. In 1998 Dawson faced eventual All “A” Champions University Heights Academy in the first round. They faced the Blazers again a year later in the regional championship game. UHA won the state title again that season.

This year the Panthers drew Fort Campbell in the first round, and went on to prove they still have what it takes to compete.

Dawson jumped out to a 16-11 in the first quarter thanks to a team effort, with six different Panthers getting on the board. Jayden Plunkette and Casey Fain led the team with four points each in the period, while Rex Blue sank a three, Montgomery Johnston added one from inside and one from the charity stripe, and Jaxen Thomas hit a pair of free throws.

The Panthers Defense turned up the heat in the second quarter holding the Falcons to only five points while pouring in 16 of their own. Dawson headed to halftime with a solid 32-16 lead.

The Falcons managed to outscore the Panthers in the third quarter 14-9 but still trailed 41-30 headed to the final quarter.

In the fourth quarter Blue drilled two triples to help Dawson put the game out of reach for the Falcons and sealed the win at 56-43.

Rex Blue led the Panthers with 18 points and hitting four shots from behind the arc. Jaydon Plunkette finished with 16, Montgomery Johnston added 12, Casey Fain had six, and Jaxen Thomas finished with four points in the game.

With the win the Panthers (6-12) advance to play Heritage Christian (3-8) Friday night in the second round of the 2nd Region All “A” at Caldwell County. Tip-off is set at 6 p.m.

“Friday is a big game for our school and community,” said head coach Mickey Blue. “If we get to Saturday, regardless who plays, I hope every player takes advantage of that opportunity and play as hard they can every play.”

The Panthers beat HCA 48-38 in their last meeting on Jan. 28, 2022.

The winner of that game will play in the 2nd Region All “A” Championship game on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. They will face the winner of a match-up between UHA (7-6) and Crittenden County (7-8).