Balanced Cougars top Milan
North Harrison kicked off the inaugural Carriage Ford Classic amid squeaky shoe leather on the hardwood inside the Cougars’ gymnasium.
It was an early start, 10 a.m., and the sound of sneakers outdid the crowd during the first quarter. As play picked up, so did the energy in the building, particularly for the host school. North Harrison, taking on Milan, pulled away in the second half to land a 64-49 victory. The win ended a four-game losing streak for the Cougars, all to ranked foes.
‘We played a lot better,’ North Harrison coach Kevin Jones said. ‘It was ugly at times, but we have been playing a tough schedule. It’s good to see where we need to be. We aren’t there yet, but a win over Milan is a good one for our guys.’
North Harrison led much of the way, other than a 3-0 deficit to start, then opened up play the first five minutes of the second half.
Leading 28-25 at the break, Jake Book started a 21-4 run with a 3-pointer. Gage Arnold was the beneficiary of the ball swinging from Chandler Jenkins to Brad Nowak then to Arnold for an uncontested lay-up.
With Book hitting a long ball, Alex Flock joined in with two straight treys. Leading 41-29, Book added two of the next three field goals, the final an and-one off a coast-to-coast drive from one end of the floor to the other. The ball-handling freshman closed with a team-best 17 points.
Jake Troxell scored on a put-back in the third quarter to put the Cougars ahead 51-38 before the start of the fourth.
‘There were a couple of good runs,’ Jones said. ‘We finally put them away late. We’re getting closer to playing the way we want to play, but we still have to cut out some silly, unforced turnovers. Other than that, it was a good effort.’
The win came with Jenkins and Flock, two of the top scorers for North Harrison, battling foul trouble.
‘Flock is our best outside shooter,’ Jones said. ‘When he had to sit on the bench and they went to a zone, I didn’t want to risk him getting a third foul. We battled to stay in the lead in the second quarter despite the fouls then managed to pull away in the third quarter.’
Flock was consistent from the field, knocking down three outside shots to close with 16 points.
Fouls were an issue with the guards; post players Arnold and Nowak picked things up in the first half. Nowak had the first four points for North Harrison, the latter coming on a put-back.
Spinning in the lane, Arnold converted a bucket to give his team a 9-5 edge.
On two occasions in the second quarter, Arnold scored on lob plays, putting the ball near the hoop for easy buckets. Jenkins threw the first, while Shawn Bishop assisted the second that put North Harrison up 24-15 at the time.
Arnold finished with 12 points. Troxell and Jenkins scored six, while Nowak had five points.
Milan saw a big game out of lanky 6-foot-5 Kyle Meyer. He got to the foul line 10 times but only made half of his attempts. He ended with 19 points. A buzzer-beating tip in before half by Meyer brought the Indians within one possession, 28-25, at the half.
‘Gage Arnold played really well down low, and Brad Nowak was strong inside,’ Jones said. ‘Flock and Jenkins have to avoid foul trouble. Our bench didn’t play well in the first half but picked things up in the second half.’
Jones said he was pleased to score a win after dropping four in a row.
‘We’ve tried to be as positive as we can with the guys. I keep telling them it will get easier,’ Jones said. ‘We’re going through as tough of a stretch as anyone in our class. Some of the things we’ve struggled with against really good teams may get easier for us down the road. We can’t get in a mindset that we are taking anyone lightly though.’
North Harrison went on to fall to Class 3A No. 3 Greensburg, the two-time defending state champion, 73-63, in the championship.
In the opposite first-round game, Greensburg, behind 30 points from Ryan Welage, defeated Eastern Greene 69-34.
The Cougars will hit the road next for a make-up game versus Heritage Hills on Saturday at 8 p.m.
Milan 10 15 13 11 ‘ 49
North Harrison 15 13 23 13 ‘ 64
North Harrison (2-4) ‘ Book 17, Flock 16, Arnold 12, Troxell 6, Jenkins 6, Nowak 5, Bishop 2.
Milan (2-5) ‘ Meyer 19, Burton 10, Butte 5, Minnich 5, Laws 4, Healy 2, Layden 2, Burton 2.
3-point goals ‘ North Harrison 4 (Flock 3, Book); Milan 2 (Burton, Minnich).
Greensburg 18 22 19 10 ‘ 69
Eastern Greene 4 7 11 12 ‘ 34
Greensburg (7-1) ‘ Welage 30, Foster 15, Beaver 7, Buening 5, Carey 4, Reynolds 4, McCullough 3, Deaton 1.
Eastern Greene (3-4) ‘ Creager 6, Martindale 5, Helton 5, Eckerle 4, Yoho 4, Veatch 3, Graham 3, Gilliatt 2, Richardson 2.
3-point goals ‘ Greensburg 3 (Buening, Foster 1, Beaver 1); Eastern Green 3 (Veatch, Helton, Graham).