With about three minutes left in Friday night’s basketball game at Perry Central, the North Harrison student cheer section broke into song, capably crooning such holiday classics as “Frosty, The Snowman,” “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “We Wish You A Merry Christmas.”
The reason for this seasonal cheer? After an 0-2 start, with humbling 20-point losses to county rivals South Central and Corydon Central, the Cougars were going to come home victorious, 80-61, with a three-game winning streak to even its season record at 4-4.
“After our start to the season, we set out to get to 4-4 by Christmas,” Cougar coach Rick Snodgrass said. “The kids did everything possible to get there. Ever since the Brownstown game (which started the three-game run), our mission has been to play every possession in every game one at a time to prepare for the end of the season. We’re focused on what we want to do as a team. We made some errors tonight, some unforced, but I’ll never be concerned with errors as long as a kid is trying to do something to benefit the team.”
North Harrison sophomore guard Blake Snodgrass, the coach’s son, pumped in 30 in the win, including going 11 of 13 from the charity stripe. Junior backcourt teammate Chad Nate Miller poured in 16 points with nine rebounds, and his cousin, senior Shanon Miller, had 14 with two three-pointers and eight rebounds. Senior Gary Fessel added eight and six boards, Cody Mitchell had six with eight rebounds, Steve Throckmorton scored four and Daniel Love had a lone deuce as well. Chad (Smoothie) Miller was held scoreless but had four steals.
North Harrison shot 26 of 64 for the game and thoroughly out-rebounded the struggling Commodores (1-5), 53-24. The Cougars hit 23 of 34 free throw attempts while Perry sank 11 of 16 tries from the line.
“We knew that they were a very aggressive ball club, and you could tell they still had football on their minds out there. It was a very physical ball game. We had to drive to the basket, and I knew if we could do that, then we’d shoot a lot of free throws,” Snodgrass said. “I felt like we did a good job doing that and converting at the line, and I felt like this was our best rebounding effort of the season. We did a great job on the offensive boards.”
Perry Central’s first-year coach, Jimmy Johnson, was dumbstruck at the rebounding numbers. Hopefully, he said, the return of injured players Nathan Toothman and Matt Aders in the paint will help out the second half of the season.
“We talked about it, talked about it, and talked about it. You have to put a better body on them. I have no explanation other than (North Harrison) was more aggressive. They tip a lot of rebounds out and go get it. They are good at doing that, and you have to give them credit for that.
“Right now our practices are 10 times more important than anyone else’s because nobody else has made it to the football state finals and has a new coach with a new system. We’ll get better. We got better tonight and looked better than we did against Tell City our last time out. Would they have out-rebounded us 2-to-1 with Toothman and Aders in there? Probably not.”
Perry Central opened the game with a 7-0 lead on baskets by Drew Flamion, a triple by Nathan Etienne, and a deuce by Jared Guillaume. Snodgrass called a time-out to settle his troops, and Fessel followed with an old-fashioned three to spark the Cougars to rally to a first-quarter deficit, 17-15.
A 6-0 run on baskets by Mitchell, Chad Nate Miller and Snodgrass pushed the visitors ahead, 22-17, and later North had a 10-0 spurt that put the score at 37-25.
After a Fessel free throw with 1:29 left in the half, D.J. Krieg had two free throws and Guillaume and Zellers had field goals to bring the Commodores to striking distance at the intermission, 38-33.
Chad Nate Miller scored five points in the first 2:30 of the third quarter ,and later in the period North went on a 12-0 streak that effectively put the game out of reach for the hosts. Snodgrass, Love and Throckmorton all chipped in offensively during the stretch.
Perry Central, which dropped its third straight game, was led by senior guard-forward Flamion, who lit the nets up for 23 points on 5-5 shooting at the free throw line. Jared Guillaume had nine with a three, and Shon Hubert added eight. Nathan Etienne scored seven as well for the Commodores.
The Cougars return to action with a tough back-to-back set on Jan. 4 and 5: North hosts Austin and Scottsburg. The Warriors are led by Western Kentucky-signee Anthony Winchester, who scored 55 points against Paoli on Friday.
“That will be a huge weekend coming back from the break, and, hopefully, what we’ve done to this point to get back on track will continue to carry over to those two games,” Snodgrass said. “As long as we continue to get production out of all eight players that take to the court like we did tonight, I think we’ll be okay. We have three big scorers in Blake, Nate and Shanon, and if Cody, Throckmorton and Daniel all continue to provide us with threats off the bench, we’ll be a very good team by March. That’s what we’re working for night in and night out.
“We just want to improve on something in every game.”