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NH outclaws Wolfpack in border war, 51-45

The annual battle royal between rivals Crawford County and North Harrison continued to be as intense as ever Friday night as the Cougars outscrapped the visiting Wolfpack for a 51-45 win.
It was a game that left Crawford coach Mike Ray scratching his head at a number of nagging issues and North Harrison coach Rick Snodgrass seeing improvement.
‘We got in early foul trouble,’ Ray said. ‘It’s the same old story. We got in early foul trouble last week at Southridge. We’ve just got to play smart.’
‘Crawford County is a very disciplined team,’ Snodgrass said. ‘We knew it was going to be a low-scoring game because they play very tenacious defense. I think we did a very good job adapting to what they gave us and took advantage of it. We have some areas we need to improve on, but we improved on a couple of them tonight.’
The intensity of the night was evident early as Crawford County’s Nick Howerton was nabbed for two quick fouls, the second coming on a double foul between he and Cougar Josh Kidd.
North Harrison took a 7-3 lead when Kidd swished a three-ball, but the Wolfpack came back as Wyatt Sillings and Chris Broughton later scored inside to close the gap to 11-10. Clayton Nix swished a North Harrison three to finish the period, the Cougars holding a 14-10 edge.
Crawford immediately came back in the opening minutes of the second period as Broughton scored inside again and Craig Adams drilled a three to put the Wolfpack in front, 15-14. That was the first of four lead changes before Zach Janes scored inside twice and Troy Eveslage put up a three to push the Cougars out in front, 23-17.
Crawford made up part of that ground, with Broughton scoring with 1.8 seconds left to leave Crawford down by four, 25-21, at halftime.
‘I was real proud how our bench came in,’ Snodgrass said. ‘Clayton Nix, Zach Sullivan, Jordan Churchill and Jordan Byrne, those four kids came off the bench and gave us quality minutes tonight. The game always dictates who you play, and we had to play a little bit bigger lineup tonight. We had to take Tyler Brunner out tonight, but he came in and hit two key free throws.’
Both teams connected for only six field goals total in the third period. Crawford managed only two for the eight minutes, while North Harrison’s four deuces gave the Cougars an eight-point cushion with one quarter to go.
North Harrison pushed its lead to double digits, 39-27, early in the fourth period, but Crawford worked to get back in the game as Broughton got two singles and Howerton scored inside, closing the Crawford deficit to eight. Following a Sullivan free throw, Crawford senior Karl Sauer drilled a three and the North Harrison lead was down to six.
With just under a minute to go, Janes made two free throws, but then fouled Adams behind the arc. Adams sank all three singles to cut the Crawford deficit to five, 42-37.
Crawford called time-out, but following the break, Tyler Brunner sank two Cougar free throws, the lead again going to seven. That quickly changed as Adams drilled his third three of the night, narrowing the gap to four with 53 seconds left. North Harrison then sank five of six its next free-throw attempts to push the Cougar lead to nine.
Jones dumped in a three, but the Cougars hung on to get the six-point win.
‘Probably our greatest positive is, I thought the kids could have quit and we didn’t quit,’ Ray said. ‘I’m happy for that. We got ourselves in that position and tried to get back in (the game).’
‘I thought the kids, for 28 minutes, played as well as we have all year,’ Snodgrass said. ‘One of our keys this week was to stop the dribble penetration. We did that tonight for the most part. Another key was we needed to clear the boards, and we did that.
‘We wanted to get in a situation where we had the lead and not let them have a chance to get to the free-throw line. They’re a good free-throw shooting team.’
Janes led the winners with 16 points, and Kidd followed with 13. The Cougars (6-7) were 18 of 25 from the stripe and committed 12 turnovers. The big stat, however, was the 31-9 rebounding edge claimed by the Cougars.
‘One of the things I think we’re doing a really nice job is utilizing our team strengths and our teammates,’ Snodgrass said. ‘Troy Eveslage had an off night shooting tonight. He sprained his wrist last week and it affected him a little bit, but Zach Janes had an unbelievable game, and that’s what we needed. You pick somebody else up when somebody has an off night scoring. I was just real proud of how our kids just did a very good job executing our game plan.’
‘I can’t believe in varsity basketball you can’t get more than nine rebounds,’ Ray said. ‘It amazes me. It’s going to take more effort and more concentration on blocking out. Blocking out is something we’ve worked on all year. These are things that have to be drilled in at an elementary age. It’s mental toughness or the lack thereof. We just refuse to block out. It’s just hard.’
Adams led Crawford County (8-7) with 12 points, but Broughton was held to eight and Jones finished with just seven. The Wolfpack were 17 of 40 from the field (42.5 percent), hit 7 of 9 free-throw attempts and made nine turnovers.
‘We’ve got to have the awareness to pass the basketball and share the basketball, and we just won’t do it,’ Ray said. ‘It’s been something I’ve been trying to drill, but I guess it’s unimportant.’
‘Our focus was to stop Broughton and Jones, and I thought our kids did an excellent job making them look for every shot they got,’ Snodgrass said. ‘We knew when you do that, we’re going to give up some shots to some other players, but we did not give up too many of them.’
The loss was Crawford’s seventh on the road. Ray said it’s something he keeps hearing about and feels the talk is putting unnecessary pressure on his players.
‘It’s more frustrating to me that all people want to do is talk about it,’ the Crawford coach said. ‘We’re aware of it. We obviously don’t need it to be brought to our attention. We have protected our home floor, that’s 8-0. It’s just something we’ve got to overcome. The more people talk about it, I just don’t think it does any good. We’ve got to go out for 32 minutes and do something about it.’
Meanwhile, Snodgrass and his team are looking at the remainder of the regular schedule to prepare for the post season.
‘We get a chance to go to Charlestown Thursday night and get a big win for us,’ he said. ‘One, it’s a big conference game for us, and two, we can even our record at 8-8. After starting at 1-4, that tells me a lot about these kids. We’re going to go hard Monday and get ready for the last five games of the season.’