Kee three dooms Cougars in regular season finale
When Paoli senior Donnie Kee hit a 3-pointer with :00.2 to go in the game to beat host North Harrison 63-61 last Tuesday night, he started blowing kisses to the sky as his teammates picked him up off the gym floor. He had good reason. The day before he had watched his mother be buried following a sudden and unexpected medical emergency.
‘It was just meant to be,’ said a North Harrison parent following the game who had learned of the situation.
North Harrison coach Chris Martin said his team was down after the loss but that wasn’t such a bad thing.
‘I saw a lot of dejected faces and I said, ‘Guys, that’s not all bad because early in the year some of you didn’t really care if we won or lost. Tonight you showed that you care’, ‘ said the North Harrison coach. ‘They were sitting in there with their heads down and were not a happy group tonight.’
The Cougars, however, first had to do a little work to get themselves in a position where they could battle with the Class 2A No. 14 Rams. After North Harrison grabbed an early 6-5 lead, the Rams made a 10-2 run for an 18-8 advantage. Will Jones got a single, but the Rams countered as Logan Laswell got two inside and Dee buried his first 3-pointer of the game for a 23-9 lead. David Geswein got two of those back, but the Rams still had a 23-13 advantage.
The Cougars came back fighting in the second. Joe Bolin got two free throws in the first minute but had that countered by a Kee 3-pointer. Chad Eveslage got two free throws, then Jim Bob Schuler turned into a man on a mission, scoring North Harrison’s next nine points to pull the Cougars back within two, 26-24. Joe Goodman and Lincoln Jones traded points in the remaining minutes of the half with Paoli’s lead still at just two, 28-26, at halftime.
‘Our goal tonight was what we’ve done all year,’ said Martin. ‘No matter who we’ve played, we’ve just got to get better every time we come on the floor and give an effort and give ourselves a chance. We don’t do a whole lot special. We don’t try to come up with any trickery. We just try to play hard and do our things we need to be successful. That’s what we tried to do against Paoli.’
Mike Harkness scored the first three of the third quarter putting the Rams back up by five. Johnson answered with a Cougar trey, then the Rams pushed their advantage back to six, 37-31, following a 6-2 burst. Jordan Byrne buried a three to start a 10-3 North Harrison run, and the Cougars went back in front 41-40 with 1:35 to go in the period. Paoli got the next four points to go back in front by three, but Bolin scored inside with just :00.4 showing on the clock, putting the Cougars down just one with eight minutes to go.
Johnson buried a three at the beginning of the fourth to put the Cougars in front again, but Harkness answered inside. Bolin swished a jumper, then Laswell buried a trey, putting Paoli back in front. Schuler and Byrne put up four straight points, growing the North Harrison lead to three. Drew White responded with another Paoli 3-pointer, and Kee added a deuce, putting the Rams back in front, 54-52.
The two teams played to a 57-57 tie, then Schuler ripped a three-ball for a 60-57 North Harrison advantage with 2:10 to go in the game. Paoli called time-out, then misfired behind the arc. Harkness fouled out at 1:25 taking away some of Paoli’s size advantage. Matt Warner was called for his second at 54.1 seconds left, but Johnson missed the front end of the bonus.
With 44.3 seconds to go, Kee swished his fourth 3-pointer of the game to tie the game at 60-all. Bolin got one of two free throws putting North Harrison back in front with 7.1 seconds to go. Paoli moved the ball to mid-court with 4.1 to go and called time-out. North Harrison also took time to strategize. When the ball came in, the Rams started to go inside then kicked the ball out to Kee on the left wing. With :00.2 showing on the clock, the ball left the senior’s hands and saw nothing but net for the 63-61 Paoli win.
‘We were trying to defend their three guys and when they were able to get ball penetration, we had to step up and help,’ said Martin. ‘They were able to find the shooter. The guy who was on (Kee) stepped in to help out on the dribble drive penetration, and it was one of those where it was good as soon as it left his hand. We’ve hit several of those this year where you go, ‘Golly, how did you hit that?’ You just knew they were going to make one. He’s a good shooter.’
‘It hurts from the standpoint that you get beat on a last-second shot but on the other standpoint, how many times have we beaten somebody here this year that we’ve stole one from somebody else?’ Martin said. ‘They came in tonight and hit a big shot and got a win, and you have to give them credit for that shot.’
Schuler led the Cougars (5-16) with 21 points, and Bolin and Johnson had 12 points each. North Harrison connected on 19-of-43 field goals (44 percent) and 15-of-20 free throws. North Harrison got 21 points off the bench and had only nine turnovers for the 32 minutes.
‘When you are a ball club like we are and like our staff is trying to teach, we’re not five deep,’ Martin said. ‘We don’t have a superstar. We don’t have one or two guys that stand out and make every shot. We have to try to find combinations every night. The guys that come off the bench might not play as many minutes as the guys in the starting line-up. That’s one of the things we talk about, just because you’re not in the starting line-up when the game starts, you still have to be a contributor, and those guys come in and do that.’
Kee led the Rams (15-4) with 19 points, and White followed with 16. Laswell added 15 for the Rams, who hit 23 of their 50 field-goal attempts (46 percent) and 6-of-12 free throws. The Rams had 13 turnovers.
The Cougars face county and conference rival Corydon Central tonight (Wednesday) in the first round of the Class 3A North Harrison Sectional. Martin said he knows how he wants his team to start the game.
‘We’ll talk about county rival, conference rival, a team that we’ve lost to twice this season,’ said Martin. ‘We’re not going to get overly psyched because if we’re fortunate to beat Corydon, that doesn’t make you sectional champ. We’ll prepare as if we’re playing three games and we’ll play three if at all possible. This is just the first hurdle.’