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'Gut-check' time for Cougars


Big 2nd half lifts Heritage Hills by NH


January 08, 2014 | 01:45 PM

Through much of the first half Saturday night, North Harrison went toe-to-toe with Class 3A No. 12 Heritage Hills in Ramsey.

A hot 3-point streak by the Patriots' Devon Merder combined with a lopsided third quarter tilted to Heritage Hills allowed the visitors to escape with a 75-46 victory.

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North Harrison's Chandler Jenkins looks to make a move by a Heritage Hills defender Saturday. Photo by Brian Smith (click for larger version)
It's putting stretches of a game together that North Harrison coach Greg Walters is looking for out of his team while working back in a few players (Joseph Hinton and Chandler Jenkins) who have missed some time with injuries.

"I was real proud for most of the first half," Walters said. "In the second half and the third quarter, I was really disappointed. The kids had a meeting in (the locker room) and talked about it being gut-check time."

Taking the hard work the players have put in during practice to the game-time floor is something North Harrison will work to improve, according to Walters.

"It's obviously a work in progress," he said. "It's not happening as fast as I would like it to, but the kids are good kids and they work hard. We've just got to take it from the practice court to the game."

Putting the right combinations together is part of the key.

"There's parts where we've gelled, and I thought it was all coming together," Walters said. "Now, it's gut-check time, and we have to get back to some things that were working for us and get the right guys' shots in the right spots and play defense."

Encouraging for the Cougars was the first half against Heritage Hills, a team that entered with a 5-1 record.

Trailing 9-4 to start, North Harrison rebounded with field goals by Austin Nolot and Cory Smith to get within one point. Although Heritage Hills extended the lead a bit after the makes, North Harrison's Chandler Jenkins scored in the paint to cut the Patriots' lead to 19-15 with a few second left on the clock.

With the precious ticks, Heritage Hills' Tyler Ward raced down the right side of the floor and swished a 30-footer before the buzzer rang. The deep shot gave Heritage Hills a 22-15 lead after one.

Caleb Sabelhaus grew Heritage Hills' lead to 24-15 to start the second quarter, but, in response, the Cougars put together their best run of the game.

Scoring inside was Jenkins to begin an 11-2 North Harrison run. Nolot buried a triple, while Smith connected on a pair of 3-point plays. One was after driving to the hole for a hoop while drawing a foul and the other was a triple started off a Hinton steal.

"They were pressing us early, and we were able to beat that press and make some plays and get it in the paint," Walters said. "All but the last 2-1/2 minutes of the first half we played well."

The long-range shot knotted the contest at 26, prompting a Heritage Hills time out.

"There was a stretch of the game where we played the right way, and then there was a huge chunk of the game where we reverted to some of the same things we've done," Walters said.

Out of the break, Merder went to work for the Patriots. He'd finish with a game-high 19 points, but nine came quick in the second quarter. He buried three right-wing 3-pointers, helping lead the Patriots on a 13-5 run to close the half.

"They run that sideline transition break, and we were trying to get two or three people back and they were pushing it up the side," he said. "(Merder) was right there in the corner on all three times in transition. He buried it. Only the last time did we get somebody over there. He's a good player. He made some big shots."

The third quarter was all Heritage Hills, forcing seven North Harrison turnovers while outscoring the Cougars 23-4.

Jenkins had an early bucket for North Harrison in the quarter, but there was a long dry spell in scoring. At one point, Heritage Hills scored 17 straight points before a drive and dish from Smith to Dylan Knopp stopped the bleeding.

With a trio of players at 6-foot-4 starting for the Patriots, they used the physical play of the game to their advantage. Neither team spent a lot of time at the charity stripe, with the Patriots going 10 of 12 at the line while North Harrison was 1 of 3.

"They were letting people play, and, physically, that favored them," Walters said. "They physically took it to us in the third quarter, and we backed down. They put the ball on the floor, and we got out of the way."

North Harrison cut the lead to 15 two minutes into the fourth quarter with consecutive field goals by Nolot, but the Cougars couldn't get any closer.

Nolot went on to lead the Cougars in scoring with 15 points, followed by Smith's 11. Jenkins chipped in eight points, while Dayton Van Uitert added six.

Four Patriots reached double-figure scoring: Merder (19), Spenser Minto (16), Gavin Schaefer (13) and Sam Scherry (10).

Heritage Hills was also dominant on the boards, out-rebounding North Harrison 29-19.

After spending all but one of six games early in the season on the road, the Cougars are in the middle of five in a row in Ramsey. Although the run began with a loss to Heritage Hills, North Harrison will host Austin on Friday, followed by Scottsburg on Saturday. Both games will tip at 7:30 p.m.

Heritage Hills 22 17 23 13 – 75

North Harrison 15 16 4 11 – 46

Heritage Hills (6-1) – Merder 19, Minto 16, Schaefer 13, Scherry 10, Ward 6, Sabelhaus 4, Sickbert 3, Madden 2, Crane 2.

North Harrison (2-5) – Nolot 15, Smith 11, Jenkins 8, Van Uitert 6, Knopp 4, Hinton 2.

3-point goals – Heritage Hills 5 (Merder 3, Schaefer, Ward); North Harrison 5 (Nolot 3, Smith 2).

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