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‘Gut check’ leads to Cougars’ OT win over Eagles

‘Gut check’ leads to Cougars’ OT win over Eagles
‘Gut check’ leads to Cougars’ OT win over Eagles
North HarrisonÂ’s Devin Southard gets by LanesvilleÂ’s Brandon Mullens and pulls up in front of teammate Alex Edwards to make the shot, sending the game against the Eagles into overtime Friday. Photo by Brian Smith (click for larger version)

The theme last week during practice for the North Harrison boys’ basketball team was simple: gut check.
In Friday night’s game at Lanesville, neither team held a lead larger than four points until the fourth quarter. At the start of the final frame, Lanesville’s Cody Schultz hit a field goal to put the host Eagles up, 46-40.
From that point, North Harrison stepped up its defense and held the Eagles to two points as Devin Southard’s runner in the lane in the final minute forced overtime. In the overtime, Southard hit all six free-throw attempts as North Harrison pulled out a 59-54 victory over the Eagles.
‘We talked about it all week, it is gut-check time,’ North Harrison coach Greg Walters said. ‘We laid it on the line and fought each other all week in practice. We ran them a lot and talked to the guys about being accountable for mistakes. Before the game, I just told the guys, it was gut-check time. It is now or never. I’m really proud of these guys pulling out this win.’
Southard was a lift off the bench for the Cougars. The senior guard had a roller-coaster week. Early in the week, he was carted off during practice with an injury and went to the hospital. Yet Thursday, he participated in practice and anticipated playing against Lanesville.
‘He bounced back and had a spectacular game at the free-throw line,’ Walters said. ‘Down the stretch, we got him the ball and he was able to get to the free-throw line.’
Southard finished with 17 points, going 10 for 10 at the line. At the end of regulation, Alex Edwards hit a free throw, to pull North Harrison within two points, 48-46, with 1:10 to play. Lanesville missed the front end of the bonus with 31.8 seconds to play, and North Harrison pulled down the rebound. The Cougars quickly got the ball to Southard, who went coast to coast to put in a runner through the lane.
Lanesville had an attempt at the win, but Nick Hammond’s shot misfired.
In the overtime, Lanesville’s struggles at the foul line continued. The Eagles went 3 of 7 while the Cougars went 9 of 12. Lincoln Jones, who finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds for North Harrison, started the overtime with a free throw.
‘We talked about it all season that Lincoln Jones can be one heck of a basketball player,’ Walters said. ‘Where that is, is up to him, just like it is for everyone. It was a gut check for him and the entire team.’
The Cougars expanded the lead to 53-48 when Southard made four straight free throws. Lanesville finally got on the board in the overtime with 51 seconds to play, cutting the deficit to 53-49. Following a Joe Bolin layup for North Harrison, Hammond buried a trey, pulling Lanesville to within three. Lanesville, however, could never regain the lead.
‘We went to the foul line and just couldn’t close it out,’ Lanesville coach Mikel Miller said. ‘In a close game like that, every little thing counts. We are struggling right now to close out these games. At the end, we didn’t do a very good job getting Bryant (Conder) the ball either. They did a nice job double teaming him, but we still have to get him the ball.’
Along with Jones, Alex Edwards was a force inside. He finished with nine points, most of which came in the first half. Edwards said it was a tough week of practice that motivated the Cougars to step up their game against Lanesville.
‘This was probably one of the toughest weeks of practice I have ever been part of,’ Edwards said. ‘I know I am in great basketball shape now. We are starting fresh now as a team, and it’s good to get a win.’
Lanesville appeared to have the momentum at the end of the second and third quarters. At the end of the half, Conder gave Lanesville a 24-23 halftime lead and erupted the Eagles’ crowd with a two-handed dunk.
‘In the first few quarters, I thought we did a much better job moving the ball the way we like and attacking,’ Miller said. ‘But all of a sudden, we stopped the final stages of the game.’
In the third quarter, Lanesville forced the slower tempo Cougars to pick up the pace. Also at the end of the quarter, Conder hit a falling away 3-pointer, putting the Eagles up, 44-40.
Offensively, the Eagles sputtered in the final quarter and overtime.
‘Lanesville has some great players in Conder and Hammond, and they were the ones we were trying to stop,’ Walters said. ‘We were able to shut those guys down in the fourth quarter. I think that is the key gut check; it was us getting down and dirty and defending those guys.’
North Harrison finished 18 of 26 at the foul line, and Lanesville went 12 of 19.
The win snapped a four-game skid for North Harrison, which hosts West Washington Friday. The Cougars travel Saturday to Madison.
Lanesville bounced back to beat Christian Academy of Indiana on Saturday, 37-32. The Eagles look to get to 10 wins on the season when they host Eastern on Friday and Perry Central on Saturday.
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