Cougars drive by Panthers
Josh Wenning’s steal and two-point layup while getting fouled brought the North Harrison crowd to its feet late in the first half of Friday night’s contest in Ramsey. Seconds later, Cory Smith’s 3-pointer, to make it a 14-0 North Harrison run, raised the noise level even higher.
Smith, who finished with a game-high 30 points, nailed the trey to give North Harrison a 17-point lead over rival Corydon Central in the first half Friday night. The Cougars held off several comeback attempts by the defending Class 3A regional runner-up to take a 72-67 win.
‘This is huge,’ said Smith, a sophomore who has put up 30-plus points in the first two games. ‘It’s our rival. It’s a conference game. It’s a big win.’
‘This may be a momentum pusher,’ North Harrison coach Greg Walters said. ‘When you’re sitting down on the mountain looking up and start to climb your way out of it, it’s pretty exciting and fun.’
It was the second-quarter run that lofted the Cougars ahead. Justin Yates hit a field goal to trim North Harrison’s lead to 27-26 before the spurt ensued.
John Martin was fouled on a putback attempt, and, with his made free throws, the Cougars expanded their lead to 30-26. A single free throw from Corydon Central’s Tommy Wiseman broke up the Cougars’ outburst of points. From that point, with Corydon Central starters Tyler Shewmaker and Tyler Ross on the sideline with three fouls each, North Harrison forged ahead.
Smith scored 10 of North Harrison’s next 14 points, two baskets by way of the long ball. His final 3 gave North Harrison a 44-27 lead. With six players having at least two fouls, Corydon Central coach Jamie Kolkmeier re-entered his top players. Shewmaker ended the North Harrison run at 17-1 with a 3-pointer, while Brayden Lander added two late free throws to make the halftime margin 44-32.
In all, North Harrison outscored Corydon Central 28-16 in the second quarter.
‘Offensively, we were quick and I would have liked to have ended that quarter a lot better,’ Walters said. ‘We went from up 17, and we should have got one shot there and we didn’t. But we’re a young team varsity-wise.’
North Harrison drew 17 fouls through attacking the basket in the first half. It also created foul issues for the bigger Panthers. The Cougars also had foul problems in a whistle-filled game, battling four players with two first-half fouls.
‘I knew we’d have trouble right now guarding the dribble,’ Corydon Central coach Jamie Kolkmeier said. ‘Our feet are too slow this early. I think we can get them faster, work on our angles and how we’re supposed to guard the ball.’
Corydon Central made a few runs at North Harrison but were unable to get closer than three points. The Panthers began the second half with field goals from Dylan Jensen and Chase Burton and two from Ross to get within six points.
Following a small drought, North Harrison stretched the lead back out when Dalton Fessel scored on an old-fashioned 3-point play to make it 49-40. Burton cut the lead to five with a trey, but North Harrison managed to stay ahead, 57-50.
‘We’d make a run and fall back,’ Kolkmeier said. ‘We missed some key free throws and turned the ball over. We’re playing hard. Obviously, we didn’t rebound as well as we should. We just didn’t have good flow.’
North Harrison toed the free-throw line 18 times in the final quarter, making good on 10 attempts. Going under three minutes to play, Smith hit a free throw to keep the Cougars ahead, 66-60. A field goal and a free throw from Bronson Kessinger trimmed the margin to 68-65 with 44.7 seconds left.
Collin Book and Smith combined for four free throws to close the game out for North Harrison.
‘That’s as good of a win as I’ve been around,’ Walters said. ‘For our program, it’s where we’ve come and where we’ve trying to get to; our guys wanted to come out and prove something.’
It was the first win over the Panthers since 2008. The energy in the gymnasium thrilled Smith, who was encouraging them throughout the game.
‘We’ve got to thank our fans,’ Smith said. ‘A lot of people came out. There was a lot of effort. We were diving on the floor, taking charges.’
Following Smith’s 30-point effort, Book chipped in 13 while Fessel added 10 points off the bench. Austin Nolot scored six points.
Justin Yates, who had nine first-quarter points, led Corydon Central with 16. Burton and Kessinger added 11 points apiece, while Jensen had eight. Ross and Shewmaker contributed seven points each.
North Harrison finished 30 of 43 from the foul line, while their opponents were 15 of 28.
The game was the first of the year for the Panthers, who had their opening game pushed back due to the semi-state championship game run of the football program.
‘Lot to work on,’ Kolkmeier said. ‘We knew that. We’ve gotten two weeks of practice, and we’re working on conditioning. We have a winning attitude that carried over, and that’s why we fought hard. This isn’t football’s fault, because, without that attitude, we don’t get back into the game the way we did. Now, we have to get conditioning in and working on game situations. We have a lot to get done.’
Walters said he noticed a stark difference in his players coming into and during the contest against their Mid-Southern Conference and county rival.
‘In the past, maybe we were a little scared,’ Walters said. ‘All week we’ve been working at it. The last couple of weeks we’ve been talking about it. This is just the second game of the season, and, for us, it’s a huge win. It’s our rival. They’ve been the dominant team in the area in sports lately, and they’ve got a great roster this year; they’ve got a really good team.’
North Harrison made it a 3-0 start to the season the following day with a 67-48 victory at Henryville.
The Cougars will return to MSC play Friday with a trip to Silver Creek at 7:30 p.m.
Corydon Central has a two-game week ahead, all home games, versus Lanesville tonight (Wednesday) followed by New Albany on Saturday. Each game will start at 7:30 p.m.