Source: The Corydon Democrat

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NH closes strong, trips Highlanders

by Wade Bell

January 21, 2014

North Harrison sophomore Chandler Jenkins looks for help after taking the ball away from Floyd Central’s J.C. Kinnaird in the second half. Jenkins eventually scored the game-winning basket later in the contest. Photo by Wade Bell
When the North Harrison Cougars and Floyd Central Highlanders came into the North Harrison gymnasium Saturday night, they both had something on which they wanted to build.

The Cougars had beaten Eastern (Pekin) the night before and Scottsburg the previous weekend and were looking for their third straight win. Floyd Central, on the other hand, had upset conference-rival Jeffersonville on Friday and was looking for a back-to-back weekend. What came was an emotionally charged night, with the Cougars edging Floyd Central, 70-69.

"We're proud," North Harrison coach Greg Walters said. "The way the season started, with injuries and turmoil and we just had a lot of things going on, we've come together as a team here and played some pretty decent basketball in the last week. It all started in practice with the kids really buying in to getting down and defending and playing defense. We were able to carry that into this weekend and give ourselves a chance to win."

"Our kids are exhausted," Floyd Central coach Mark Lieberman said. "We played hard. The calls didn't go our way all night. So, what are you going to do?"

Both teams were flexing their muscles early and trading baskets, with the Cougars holding a slight edge. Cory Smith bagged a three, giving North Harrison a 12-7 lead. Cameron Mink later added a free throw to push the lead to six.

Cameron Simpson scored inside for the Highlanders, but North Harrison's Dylan Knopp got a deuce-and-one for the last scoring of the period, giving the Cougars a 16-9 advantage.

North Harrison's lead briefly went to nine early in the second period when Smith scored from just inside the perimeter. That was one of only three field goals the Cougars sank in the quarter.

The Highlanders took advantage of that with a 7-2 burst. Brandon Smith sunk a three to pull Floyd Central back to within two, 24-22.

Simpson later sank a three, closing the gap to one, 27-26. North Harrison, however, scored the last four points of the half, with Smith hitting a three with two seconds left to give the Cougars a 31-26 lead at halftime.

One of North Harrison's main focuses on defense was J.C. Kinnaird, who had scored 32 points the night before against Jeffersonville.

"We were trying to get a foot in the paint and stop that dribble penetration, so we were trying to be big-time help side," Walters said. "They made some threes last night (against Jeffersonville), but we were willing to give up some three-point attempts for trying to cut off the lane."

"It really didn't affect him," Lieberman said. "He was fine. It's not even really a box-and-one. He got shots off early. It's more of a sagging defense. We got him shots because we screened. That didn't bother us."

Floyd Central quickly tightened the game early in the second half, with Ervin and Cameron Simpson hitting threes to give the Highlanders a 32-31 edge.

The lead changed hands four times during the remainder of the period. Cory Smith hit two free throws to put North Harrison in front. Moments later, Kinnaird scored inside, and the two teams were tied at 44 with one quarter left.

Simpson put Floyd Central out front to begin the fourth quarter with a three-ball. The Highlanders led until Kinnaird fouled Smith on a three-ball, with Smith completing the four-point play that gave North Harrison a 52-50 edge.

The teams traded baskets and the lead again, then Joseph Hinton burned Floyd Central on a three, putting the Cougars back up by four, 57-53.

Austin Nolot added to that, scoring inside, but Kinnaird answered twice, pulling Floyd Central back to within two. Smith hit from behind the arc again, but Kinnaird answered twice. Back and forth the teams went four more times.

With 16.1 seconds left, Floyd Central's Connor Sturgeon got one of two free throws to close the gap to one, 67-66. Simpson got the ball following the missed free throw and hit a three-pointer, putting he Highlanders in front, 69-67.

With time running out, Hinton raced down the floor and Chandler Jenkins took the ball into the lane to score and draw a foul with 1.5 seconds left. Jenkins hit the free throw, giving the Cougars a 70-69 lead.

Both teams called time-out, then Floyd Central got the ball inbounds and launched a long three. The ball missed the mark, and the Cougars celebrated the one-point win.

"The last play we go up one, but we don't get back and give up that play," Lieberman said. "That hurts."

"I kept yelling at the kids about pace of play," Walters said. "As a coaching staff, we wanted to have a couple of 20-second possessions here or there. The way they guard you, they force you to go to the basket. They want you to shoot quick and that type of thing, so we kind of got to playing their pace, and that's where we lost our lead a little bit and it became a game. We were able to make enough plays at that pace. There, at the stretch, we were able to slow it down a second and gather ourselves and make better plays."

Smith, who hit four three-pointers, led the Cougars with 22 points. North Harrison was 19 of 45 (42 percent) from the field and cashed in 31 of 42 free throws. The Cougars had 21 turnovers.

"We got in foul trouble, and Alex Flock, who was guarding (Ervin) in the stretch, did a good job. He had to play a humongous stretch of the game without getting any sub," Walters said. "We had some bigs on the bench, but we didn't have another guard or two to fill his spot."

Ervin and Kinnaird led Floyd Central with 19 points each, and Simpson followed with 11. The Highlanders hit 20 of 49 field goals (41 percent) and 20 of 29 free throws. Floyd Central finished with 14 turnovers.

Walters said Ervin gave his Cougars a lot of problems in their defensive strategy.

"You've got to give it to them," he said. "The Ervin kid was able to get to the basket late and beat us off the bounce. Our help side broke down a little bit, but the kids kept fighting and played hard the whole night. When we had to get a stop, we got one."

"Everybody played well," Walters said of his Cougars. "Everybody that came in contributed. It's a good team win, and the kids were real excited. Hopefully, we can carry this momentum into next weekend."

Floyd Central 9 17 18 25 69

North Harrison 16 16 12 26 70

Floyd Central (2-9) Ervin 19, Kinnaird 19, Kimm 6, Smith 5, Simpson 11, Sturgeon 3, Crum 6.

North Harrison (5-6) Hinton 8, C. Smith 22, Nolot 12, Flock 9, Knopp 3, Jenkins 9, Mink 7

3-point goals Floyd Central 5 (Kimm 2, Ervin, Kinnaird, Smith); North Harrison 2 (Hinton, Smith).