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Two-overtime thriller goes North Harrison’s way, 71-68

The North Harrison Cougars went from one nail-biter to another this weekend, taking the visiting Floyd Central Highlanders to a double overtime win Saturday night after getting nosed out by the Musketeers of Eastern the night before. There were heroics on both ends of the floor, but the Cougars held on Saturday for a 71-68 win.
‘We got a split this weekend, but we were one shot away from winning last night,’ North Harrison coach Chris Martin said. ‘We pulled one out in double overtime tonight, so it’s one of those where it’s nice to get a split and it will lead to some good practices next week, hopefully.’
‘The whole reason you play basketball is to have fun games like this,’ Floyd coach Randy Gianfagna said. ‘Tonight was a fun basketball game. We felt like we shouldn’t have been in the position we were in, but you are what you are. We were happy we came back from 10 down.’
The Highlanders came back from several deficits, the first when the Cougars shot out to a 7-0 lead. However, Ryan Adam went to work, scoring eight of the Highlanders’ next 10 points to give Floyd Central a 10-9 edge.
Cody Johnson and Jim Bob Schuler swished threes to push the Cougars back in front, but Floyd Central fired back with a 5-0 burst, with Adam nailing a long deuce for a 15-15 tie.
The Highlanders kept their run going early in the second with a seven-point burst to lead 22-15. The Cougars then switched defenses, putting a chaser on Adam, and the Highlanders got off only one shot in the next three minutes. North Harrison, meanwhile, made a 7-0 run to lead again, 24-22. That lasted only briefly, as the Highlanders scored the last five points of the half for a 27-24 lead going into the locker room.
‘That’s the first time we’ve faced a box-and-one all year,’ Gianfagna said. ‘We haven’t really worked on that stuff in practice. It took us a little while to adjust.’
‘What we were doing in our regular zone defense, he was catching it and going baseline every time,’ Martin said of Adam, who had 15 points in the first half. ‘We didn’t get anybody down to the baseline to cut him off. After we put a chaser on him, he had to come a lot higher to get the ball.’
Both teams lit up the nets in the third period, with Floyd Central hitting 12 of 15 shots and North Harrison getting 8 of 14. North Harrison, however, was doing better behind the arc. The Cougars got seven straight points from Schuler and Johnson to go back in front, then baskets went back and forth until Schuler drilled two treys. Johnson followed with a deuce, and the Cougars’ advantage jumped to eight, the difference after three periods.
‘We got some momentum, because we got out in transition,’ Martin said.
Floyd Central’s Buddy McAfee took some pressure off of Adam in the fourth with two deuces. Adam followed with a long two that was negated by Schuler. McAfee got two more, but North Harrison’s Joe Bolin canceled that one out. The trading session continued, but Bolin and Johnson swished two from behind the arc for a 55-47 North Harrison lead.
Kane Hackemack finally got a three to fall to set off a 7-0 Floyd Central burst, with McAfee scoring to close the gap to one. Bolin came back with a deuce, but Hackemack got one of two free throws. With 12.9 seconds left, Adam buried a deuce to send the game into overtime.
‘The first one, we overran (Adam) on the wing,’ Martin said. ‘Joe came by and went too hard, and he got a little 15-footer.’
Thomas Briscoe gave Floyd Central the first basket of the extra period, but North Harrison responded with seven points to lead 68-65. Adam sank two free throws to close the gap to three.
Schuler had a chance to put the game away from the stripe with 34.2 seconds left, but he missed two attempts. With 17.5 seconds left, Adam drilled a contested three, and the game went into its second overtime.
‘At the end of the first overtime, he hit that shot and you just tip your hat to him and say, ‘What a shot,’ ‘ Martin said.
The first two minutes of the second overtime became a standoff as Floyd Central held the ball following the tip and the Cougars pulled back. With two minutes to go, the Highlanders finally broke loose but turned the ball over.
The ball changed hands twice, and then, with 23.7 seconds to go, Jordan Byrne went to the stripe for two singles to give North Harrison a 70-68 lead.
Floyd Central missed with six seconds left, then Schuler added a third single. McAfee got off one last three for the Highlanders, but he was off the mark as the Cougars got the 71-68 win.
‘I figured if we get the tip, let’s get the last play,’ Gianfagna said.
Martin said foul trouble was his reason for waiting Floyd Central out in the standoff.
‘I said Jim Bob’s got four fouls, and if we get a foul on him 30 seconds into this overtime and I’m worried about stopping them 50 feet from the basket, I’m going to look really stupid,’ Martin said. ‘It did what I wanted it to do. Jim Bob was cramping up and some other guys were getting tired, so that two minutes enabled us to get a wind and allow everybody in the stands to yell at me a little bit, ‘Come out, coach, and play a little bit.’ We did what we thought was right at that time.’
Schuler led the Cougars with 24 points, and Johnson had 19 points, hitting five threes. Bolin followed with 11 points for the Cougars, who hit 28 of 49 field goals (57 percent). North Harrison made 10 of 19 free throws and committed 18 turnovers.
‘We wanted to have an improvement,’ Martin said. ‘We wanted to see what these guys would do if they put it together for a ball game. We also realize if you want it too much, a lot of times it doesn’t come, so we’ve been hoping, but we haven’t been putting too much stock in a game like tonight.’
Adam led the Highlanders with 24 points, and McAfee and Hackemack added 17 and 14, respectively. Floyd Central was 28 of 55 from the field (51 percent) and 9 of 15 from the stripe. The Highlanders had 21 turnovers.
‘I asked our players this week, if people come and watch us play, what do you think I want them to see?’ Gianfagna said. ‘One of our kids said us being fundamental. Well, we didn’t meet passes tonight. We didn’t step to passes tonight. We didn’t defensive rebound on long rebounds.’
Martin said it was a big win for his program.
‘For our program and what we’re trying to do and where we’re trying to go, it’s one we can look back on,’ he said, ‘beating a team from the Hoosier Hills (Conference), beating a team that Randy coaches and does a great job; it’s good for our kids.
‘It’s not only good for our guys on the floor, it’s good for the freshmen and sophomores and the ones sitting on the bench and sitting in the stands that saw what we did, saw the effort the guys put forth.’