Win assures winning season for Cougars
Last Tuesday’s win over Paoli guaranteed the North Harrison boys’ basketball team its first winning season since the 2003-04 year.
The Cougars pulled away midway through the third quarter and rode home to a 67-58 victory in Ramsey.
‘Every game is a big game,’ North Harrison coach Greg Walters said. ‘For us, just what we’ve been through the last month with (losses to) Madison, Crawford County and Clarksville, those were three games we felt like we had won and they made miraculous shots to beat us. We felt like tonight we wanted to come out and end it on the right note, kind of how we started it.’
North Harrison kicked off the year on fire, winning its first four games and 9 of 11. Lately, the Cougars have been on the wrong end of close decisions. Tuesday night, they righted the ship, ending a five-game slide to beat the Rams and improve to 11-9.
The pivitol spurt in the third quarter came after the Cougars took a time-out and Paoli’s Aaron Key hit a free throw to give the visitors a 35-34 lead.
North Harrison responded by going on a 9-0 scoring run. Cory Smith put in a field goal that was followed by Dalton Fessel scoring on a backdoor cut. Then, off a steal, Smith hit one of his five 3-pointers. Fessel closed the run with another field goal in the post to push North Harrison ahead, 43-35.
‘We turned the ball over, and Paoli went down and missed a layup but got the rebound because no one hustled to get the rebound,’ Walters said. ‘I called the time-out, subbed a few guys out and they responded with a big effort after that.’
Fessel added two additional field goals late in the third quarter, leading to a 47-41 Cougars lead heading into the fourth. Fessel scored all eight of his points in a four-minute span in the frame.
‘He got some big key rebounds,’ Walters said of Fessel. ‘He had five rebounds. We had three guys in double figures, Fessel with eight and (Tyler) Bement with seven. It was an all-around team effort. The guys were able to find our shooters, and they had good looks.’
Paoli showed a zone defense to open the fourth quarter, which led to three consecutive treys from Smith. The sophomore finished with 28 points, 10 coming in the final frame.
Smith’s final trey gave North Harrison a 56-45 lead. Inside the final 4:52, the Cougars made 9 of 13 free throws to seal the victory.
‘Cory knocked down some big 3s there down the stretch when the team was able to find him,’ Walters said. ‘It was a total team effort. It’s been that way all year. The guys know everybody wants to win and do those things.’
Austin Nolot hit 5 of 6 free throws late to reach 10 points for the game. Collin Book also had 10 points and seven rebounds.
North Harrison opened the game with a 6-0 run with point contributions from Cody Morgan, Tyler Bement and Book. The lead stayed at six when Book hit two free throws, making the score 12-6.
The Cougars, however, were held scoreless the final 2:30 of the quarter. Paoli’s Colton Phelps and Tanner Wroblewski knocked down treys to knot the game at 12 after one quarter.
Smith halted the momentum in the second quarter with a trey right off the bat. Bement eventually gave North Harrison a 25-22 lead with a score on a put-back. An Austin Nolot trey and a Book field goal pressed North Harrison ahead, 30-24, at halftime.
‘We got some good looks,’ Walters said. ‘We had some turnovers, more than what we usually do. We had seven in the first half, and we’re a team that keeps it around 10 or 12 (for the game). That’s when we were able to compete, because we don’t always rebound with the other teams, but we usually take care of the ball.’
Paoli outscored North Harrison 10-2 to start the second half but couldn’t withstand the Cougars’ run midway through the third quarter.
The win was definitely a good one for the Cougars.
‘We finally got over that hump,’ Walters said of getting over .500. ‘That was one of our goals at the start of the year. We’ve had several of those games go down to the wire where we missed some free throws down the stretch. Tonight, we were able to make the free throws and win the game.’
Paoli was paced in scoring by Key’s 16 points.
North Harrison faced Salem in the opening round of the Class 3A Salem Sectional last night (see next week’s edition for a game story). If the Cougars won, they will play Scottsburg Friday at 6 p.m. The championship is scheduled for Saturday at 7:30 p.m.