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Cougars roar by Highlanders

Cougars roar by Highlanders
Cougars roar by Highlanders
North Harrison’s Tyler Bement and Floyd Central’s Tanner Wortham stretch for a loose ball after Wortham knocked the ball away in the Cougars’ 55-52 win. Photo by Wade Bell (click for larger version)

After sloshing through a muddy first quarter, the North Harrison Cougars roared back to blitz the visiting Highlanders of Floyd Central in a 55-52 win. North Harrison improved to 9-2 for the season, while Floyd Central dropped to 6-8.
‘That’s a great win for us,’ Cougars coach Greg Walters said. ‘Floyd Central is a really good team and a 4-A school, and it was a quality win.’
‘All losses sting a little bit,’ Floyd Central coach Randy Gianfagna said. ‘We didn’t play well tonight. They did a nice job. They changed when we were up 11-2 and they went to a zone.’
Floyd Central seemed loose and ready to go during the pre-game shoot-around, while the Cougars were much more subdued. That seemed to translate to the floor in the first quarter as the Highlanders sprinted to an 11-2 lead. Cory Smith scored inside during the final seconds as the Cougars cut their deficit to seven after the first eight minutes.
‘We just didn’t make shots,’ Walters said. ‘Actually, we were excited about our defense. We held them to 11 points in the quarter, and we only got two. We were like, ‘We’re going to get things going offensively.’ It’s been our key to the whole season. We’ve done well offensively.’
Smith erupted in the second period, scoring seven more as the Cougars finished a 13-0 explosion to lead 15-11.
Floyd Central tied the game at 15, but North Harrison’s Austin Nolot countered with a three. After Floyd Central got two free throws, Smith drilled another three and North Harrison’s lead was back to four, 21-17. The Cougars continued to hold a four-point lead at the end of the half, 22-18.
Gianfagna said his team’s coverage of Smith didn’t go as well as he had hoped.
‘We were hoping if he shot 25 times and got 25 points, that was OK, but I don’t think he shot that many,’ Gianfagna said. ‘So, we fouled him a lot tonight. I was more upset that we lost Nolot in transition.’
‘(Smith) made some threes and we forced a couple of turnovers that were key in that stretch,’ Walters said of the second quarter. ‘We got stops. We’ve struggled a lot this season getting stops, so we got them and we were able to make a run.’
The Cougars finally got some breathing room in the third period, pushing their advantage to 35-25. Connor Schellenberg countered with a three for the Highlanders and teammate Jordan Thompson got a free throw to close the gap to six, but North Harrison finished with a 7-0 burst, with Smith drilling another three at the buzzer, for a 42-29 advantage.
Floyd Central fought back as Nick Bomersbach and Gavin O’Neal sandwiched three-balls around a Tyler Bement deuce to close the gap to nine. The Cougars pushed the lead back to 13, but Tanner Wortham bagged a three and then a deuce to reduce the Floyd Central deficit to eight.
Nolot and Floyd Central’s Ted Hartog traded threes before a Schellenberg three closed the gap to five. The Cougars went through a dry spell at the free-throw line until Nolot sank two, pushing the Cougars lead back to seven with 22.7 seconds left.
Bomersbach, however, drilled another three-pointer with 13.4 seconds remaining and Floyd Central called time-out.
Highlander Drew Hussung drew his fifth foul at 13.2 seconds, and Nolot made one of two free throws, extending the North Harrison lead to 55-50.
Floyd Central, however, misfired twice, and Schellenberg scored inside at the end as the Cougars celebrated the 55-52 win.
‘We saw where they struggled from the 3-point line last night,’ Walters said. ‘We tried to go man early, and they just exploited it. ‘ Then, they went right after Cory. So, we went zone and rode it out most of the game. We moved a few things out of the zone to force some turnovers.’
‘We just didn’t play well tonight, and he did a good job adjusting his zone,’ Gianfagna said of Walters. ‘We worked on the zone today, but I can’t remember the last time we were zoned. It looked like it a little bit. We didn’t get much ball reversal, and that’s just the way it is.’
Smith led North Harrison with 25 points, and Nolot tallied 15 points and six rebounds. The Cougars connected on 17 of 39 field-goal attempts (44 percent) and 12 of 20 free throws, while committing 12 turnovers.
Bomersbach led Floyd Central with 16 points, and Schellenberg finished with 15. The Highlanders put away just 18 of 50 field-goal attempts (36 percent) and 8 of 14 from the stripe, while turning the ball over 15 times.