Byrne downs rivals with game-winner
North Harrison’s ‘Cardiac Cougars’ have been giving their fans plenty to have arrhythmia about in all four of their wins. The first win came in overtime, then the second in double overtime. North Harrison’s third win came in a marathon five OTs.
Friday night, hearts were really thumping away as Cougar senior Jordan Byrne drilled a last-second shot to beat visiting Crawford County 60-58.
‘I don’t know how much longer I can take this,’ laughed North Harrison coach Chris Martin after the Cougars’ win. ‘I’m exhausted, but our kids just keep coming and keep playing hard. Once we figured it out tonight, we could not back down to them. You saw what we can do.’
Crawford coach Mike Brown was a bit disappointed after North Harrison erased a 19-point deficit.
‘It wasn’t for a lack of effort,’ he said. ‘I thought we really tried hard. I thought we had kids that really played together, and it’s disappointing for them because they probably deserved to win this one.’
The first half belonged to the Wolfpack who sprinted out to a 9-1 lead in the first quarter. North Harrison jumped back into the fray with a 7-4 run to close within four, 13-9, after one quarter.
Dustin Bowling and Ean Edwards pushed the Crawford lead to 18-9 in the first 1:30 of the second quarter. The next few minutes saw both teams trade free throws back and forth until Spencer Griswold scored inside for a 25-13 Wolfpack advantage. North Harrison gained only one of those back before the break, as Crawford held a 28-17 halftime lead.
‘We were down a man tonight that really could have helped us some,’ said Brown of Bo Benham who has been out with a knee injury but is expected back on the practice floor tomorrow (Thursday). ‘But we had enough guys to win the game. When you go on the road you’ve got to be eight or 10 points better because they’re going to hit the shots you’re not late and they’re going to make the free throws you’re going to miss.’
Crawford began the second half with a 11-3 run to take a 39-20 lead less than three minutes into the period. North Harrison, however, didn’t waste time getting back in the mix as Jim Bob Schuler got a pair of free throws and a 3-pointer. Chad Eveslage added to the run with a deuce to pull the Cougars closer at 39-27.
‘When they came into the locker room at halftime, I think everyone in there chewed on them a little bit,’ Martin said. ‘All the coaches, I think the trainer got on them, I think the statistician got on them. I think everyone had a little bit of a round of telling them they were backing down from the pressure and finally, with about 17 minutes to go, decided we were going to play a little basketball.’
Daniel Allen buried a Crawford three for a 42-27 Wolfpack lead. The remainder of the third, however, belonged to the Cougars, who finished with a 9-0 run and cut their deficit to just six, 42-36.
‘We decided to compete,’ said Martin. ‘We’ve talked all week about how physical they were … We were the aggressor. We started drawing a few fouls being aggressive to the basket, dribble drive, penetrate and kick, trying to find the next shooter.’
North Harrison pulled within four early in the fourth, but Andrew Curl fired up a three for a 47-40 Crawford edge. Cody Johnson later pulled the Cougars back within four after driving the lane. Ryan Griffith gave Crawford two free throws for a six-point lead, but Joe Bolin and T.J. Sanders gave the Cougars a big lift with back-to-back triples to tie the game at 55 with two minutes left.
Free throws by Curl kept Crawford out in front but, at 1:05, Sanders scored inside for a 58-58 tie. Crawford mis-fired on a three, but North Harrison rushed two shots then called time-out with :01.1 to go.
David Geswein then took the ball out of bounds and looked for an open man. Just before getting a five-second count called on him, Geswein found Byrne. Byrne got up above Curl and launched a 15-footer just before the buzzer and the ball found nothing but net, giving the Cougars their fourth win of the season.
‘We drew it up for Jim Bob and Cody to be on the strong side,’ Martin said. ‘We put Joe (Bolin) flashing to the corner, and Jordan was just going to follow in. If we didn’t have anything, we were going to have a lob play, and Jordan is our best jumper.’
Schuler led the winners (4-13) with 22 points, and Sanders followed up with 11. North Harrison was just 18-of-52 from the field and connected on 20-of-33 free throws. The Cougars finished with just four turnovers for the 32 minutes.
‘When you have a coaching change, there’s going to be change,’ said Martin. ‘It doesn’t matter who it is, college level, NBA level, high school level; it’s a change. There’s going to be offensive changes, defensive changes. We came in and put a lot of new stuff in, and they looked at us the first couple of weeks as if they didn’t know what planet we were from. In the last month, we’ve begun to see ball movement, rotations, penetrations, kicks and jump shots that are good shots rather than just firing the first three we get. You see the results when you move the ball and we rotate bodies and be aggressive.’
Curl led the Wolfpack (5-10) with 16 points, and Griffith came off the bench for 11 on the night. Crawford hit 15-of-32 field goals and 21-of-33 free throws. The Wolfpack had 16 turnovers.
Martin hopes to see his team continue to improve, while Brown still looks for answers.
‘The kids are enjoying it, and if we can continue to move them in the right direction and keep their heads on straight, maybe we can be a factor (in the sectional),’ said the Cougar coach. ‘We have to continue to get better. We’re not in a class with Charlestown and Salem yet, but if they come here and we keep it close, our kids believe they can win one close.’