Happy homecoming in Ramsey
North Harrison boys’ basketball coach Kevin Jones came into the North Harrison gymnasium Saturday night with a different look than his normal royal blue golf shirt and khaki pants. The North Harrison coach sported a dark blue pin-striped suit, blue shirt and tie signaling a new start to the second half of the season. That new start came out on the positive side as the Cougars downed the visiting Lions of Salem, 69-66, on homecoming night.
‘It’s always good to win on homecoming,’ Jones said after the game. ‘Everybody goes home happy. The JV won a big game. The JV has been playing better, all of those freshmen.
‘We’ve had a lot of adversity this week. Shawn (Bishop) got hurt before the game last night. (Austin) Giles got a concussion at Floyd (Central) last week. Carl Robertson hurt an ankle and didn’t play last night. Our young players have started to step up a little bit, and we’re going to need them in the future. (Jake) Troxell has got a hundred times better as has Alex Eveslage.’
The two teams began the night matching each other bucket for bucket with the Cougars being able to hold a slight edge. Both teams were also hitting from behind the arc. Alex Flock buried two Cougars’ threes in the first period, but the Lions matched each one immediately afterward. Jaelen Nice drilled a Salem three at the end of the period, tying the game at 22.
‘We sat down today and had a big heart-to-heart about a lot of things,’ Jones said. ‘Salem didn’t press near as much as I thought they would. They mixed their defenses a little bit more than what they had in the past. They’re similar to Scottsburg when they press.’
Salem went out in front early in the second quarter with two free throws by Seth Hobson. The Cougars immediately responded as Jake Book scored inside and Flock drilled his third three of the night for a 28-24 lead. Hobson later scored six straight points for the Lions, giving Salem a 35-31 edge.
Flock canned a free throw and 3-ball, but Jeffrey Burch hit from behind the arc for the Lions. Chandler Jenkins scored the last bucket of the half to give the Lions a one-point edge at the break, 38-37.
‘Salem is a good, capable basketball team,’ Jones said. ‘They hit six threes in the first half. We did a better job in the second half shutting them down from the perimeter. We kept them out of the lane better than we did the first half. Hopefully, we can talk next week at this time and we’re still getting better.’
The Cougars started the second half with a 9-3 run, marching to a 46-41 lead.
Salem later jumped back into the thick of it with a 6-0 burst to lead 53-50. Flock was there for the Cougars, however, hitting from behind the arc, tying the game at 53 with one quarter remaining.
Austin Jerrell scored the first basket of the fourth quarter to put the Lions back in front. Three ties came: at 55, 58 and 60. With 2:35 left in the game, Flock drilled another three-ball. Nice countered with a short deuce. From there, the Cougars held off Salem from the free-throw line, going on for the 69-66 win.
‘I am tickled on how we responded,’ Jones said after his team lost to the Lanesville Eagles the night before. ‘We played very poorly last night. That’s not taking anything away from Lanesville. Lanesville played great, and they really took it to us. If they play like that, they’re going to be a tough team to handle in their tournament.’
‘That team tonight was the one I was expecting to go to Pekin (Eastern) last week,’ Jones said. ‘We’ve got the young kids playing better. (Freshman) Jake Book played better tonight. … We’ve got potential if these kids keep growing and stay coachable. We can have a pretty good team next year and finish out this year real strong, too.’
Flock led the Cougars in scoring with 21 points, canning five 3-pointers. Book finished with 17 points, and Jenkins had 16. North Harrison was 22 of 49 (45 percent) from the field and 18 of 29 from the free-throw line. The Cougars had just five turnovers for the 32 minutes.
‘We had our season high in points,’ Jones said. ‘We missed way too many free throws at the end. Free throws and rebounds and some blockouts in some crucial spots, if we can tighten that up a little bit, part of the suit was we buried last season’s team after last night.’
‘Alex Flock has struggled shooting the ball,’ he said. ‘He came in and hit some big shots last night. He had five threes tonight and, in the last two games, he was four of 27 from the field. He’s a good shooter, and we talked about him taking good shots. When he takes good shots, he’s a really good shooter.’
Jones also praised Gage Arnold and Brad Nowak for their work in the paint.
‘Gage Arnold played an outstanding game,’ he said. ‘Gage was huge. He’s getting better every game. His attitude and work ethic have been great. I couldn’t be happier with Gage Arnold. … Brad Nowak, he’s a warrior down there. He’s so big and strong and physical, he’s got to do a better job of not fouling. That’s the only weakness in his game.’
Hobson led Salem with 20 points for the night, hitting 10 of 14 free throws. Caleb Couch had 13 points, and Nice tallied 11. Jerrell added 10 for the Lions, who hit 23 of 47 from the field (49 percent) and 10 of 15 from the stripe. Salem had 12 turnovers for the night.
‘We’re just looking to make that turn these last nine to 10 games,’ Jones said. ‘When our name is drawn out on sectional night, I want people to be worried. That team that played last night, people would have been high-fiving if they drew that team on sectional night.’
‘It was a big win for the Cougars,’ he said, ‘and I’ve got to wear the suit to West Washington.’
Salem 22 16 15 13 ‘ 66
North Harrison 22 15 16 16 ‘ 69
Salem (5-9, 0-4 MSC) ‘ Couch 13, Nice 11, Cornett 4, Burch 8, Hobson 20, Jerrel 10
North Harrison (4-10, 2-5) ‘ Flock 21, Jenkins 16, Book 17, Phelps 2, Arnold 7, Nowak 6
3-point goals ‘ Salem 8 (Couch 3, Nice 3, Burch 2); North Harrison 6 (Flock 5, Book).