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Cougars take bite out of Pats

It was 32 minutes of tug-of-war Saturday night in the North Harrison gymnasium as the Cougars and the visiting Heritage Hills Patriots chased each other up and down the floor like cars in a demolition derby. North Harrison had a better start to the game and that made the difference as the Cougars came away with a 66-59 win on a damp, rainy night.
‘We preach about toughness all the time,’ Cougars’ head coach Kevin Jones said. ‘Sometimes you’ve just got to be tougher than the other guy. I think maybe we were a little more tough than what the coaching staff had given us credit for … We would have never won that game last year. We just weren’t prepared to win tough, close games like that. We had some adversity.’
Both teams held nothing back in the early going as the Cougars had the edge by a point while Mason Becher scored the first six points for the Patriots. Heritage Hills kept it tight, but North Harrison senior Alex Flock then went on a rage, scoring nine straight points to push his team’s lead to 12, 20-8. Becher sank a Patriots’ three, but the Cougars countered with six straight to lead 25-11. Grant Doyle finally got a three-ball to go down for the Patriots, but the Cougars were in control, 25-14, after one period.
Flock tallied 14 points during those first eight minutes.
‘He’s long, he’s quick, he’s athletic, he’s gotten a lot stronger,’ Jones said of Flock. ‘He played probably as well the first quarter as he could have. … Alex played one of his best games as far as not forcing things. I thought he did a really good job of trying to play within himself, within the offense. Sometimes, for a shooter, when you get hot like that, it’s hard and tempting to jack up a bunch of crazy shots. It shows how mature he’s becoming and being a senior leader.’
The Patriots raced back into the game feeding off of Doyle’s three, scoring the first eight points of the second period to close the gap to three, 25-22. North Harrison countered with an 8-1 burst, with Flock scoring six more in the run, and North Harrison’s lead jumped to 33-25.
Mitchell Becher hit a jumper, and Dalton Selvidge followed with a three to close the game back to three, 33-30.
The Cougars made one more slight gain by halftime, taking a 37-31 lead to the locker room at the break.
‘They did a good job,’ Jones said of the Patriots. ‘(Matt Sisley’s) a very good coach, and he knows what he’s doing. They changed some things up defensively. They went to a 1-3-1 look that we struggled with a little bit. It’s something we’ve worked on, but we didn’t do a very good job of attacking. Then, when they went back to the man after that, we were a little impatient and took some mid-range shots and some forced shots.’
Jake Book upped North Harrison’s lead back to nine to begin the second half. Gabe Hitz scored inside for the Patriots, but Max Flock countered with a deuce-and-one. Heritage Hills chewed back into the Cougars’ lead, with Mason Becher scoring twice. After a few minutes of trading points, the Patriots scored the last four points of the period, putting North Harrison’s lead back to one, 51-50.
‘We just played well the first quarter, and then we had a pretty good lull,’ Jones said. ‘We had a pretty good run there in the second, and, into the third, we just hit a wall. I don’t know if we were just tired or our shot selection wasn’t always the best.’
The Patriots kept going in the fourth, with Mason Becher draining a three and Selvidge and Hitz getting singles for a 55-51 edge. Fouls became a concern for the Cougars as Flock was hit with his third and Book was called for his fourth. At that point, the Cougars began a rally with Chandler Jenkins scoring in the paint. Alec Meunier dumped in a Patriots’ three, but Jenkins countered with free throws to keep the Cougars within two. Flock tied the game at 58, but Mitchell Becher got a Patriots’ freebie. With 1:40 left in the game, Jenkins got a deuce-and-one and Book sank five of six free throws as the Cougars got the 66-59 win.
‘We had a couple of defensive breakdowns, but, when they went up four, we made some big plays,’ Jones said. ‘Our seniors stepped up and made some big plays. Jake Troxell got a couple of crucial, pretty big rebounds for us. Jake Book hit his free throws there at the end. It is a good team win.’
Flock led the Cougars with 24 points for the night, and Book followed with 17. Jenkins added 15 for the Cougars, who hit 22 of 48 field-goal attempts (46 percent) and 19 of 25 free throws. The Cougars took care of the basketball, turning it over just nine times.
‘Chandler hit the big three-pointer there at the end that got us over the hump a little bit,’ Jones said. ‘So, we had good leadership from our seniors as far as making big plays.’
Mason Becher led Heritage Hills with 20 points, and Selvidge finished with 11. The Patriots shot the ball well from the field, hitting 22 of 43 attempts (51 percent) and 10 of 19 from the charity stripe. Heritage Hills turned the ball over 18 times.
‘That’s a very good team,’ Jones said. ‘They’re very well coached. It’s a good building block for us. Nothing against last year’s team. It’s just, you get in those situations in close games and you’ve got to kind of step up and make big defensive plays and big offensive plays and hit free throws when you need to, and we did all that tonight.’
‘Last year, if we had gotten behind four after being in an early lead like that, we might have got beat by 10,’ he said. ‘This year, we kept it at four a couple of plays and got even, and we kind of went on a little run there at the end and got some stops and hit some free throws and won a ballgame.’

Heritage Hills 14 17 19 9 ‘ 59
North Harrison 25 12 14 15 ‘ 66
Heritage Hills (0-1) ‘ Meunier 6, Doyle 6, Selvidge 11, Crews 4, Mi. Becher 6, Ma. Becher 20, Hitz 6
North Harrison (2-0) ‘ M. Flock 5, A. Flock 24, Troxell 1, Jenkins 15, Book 17, Kaiser 4
3-point goals ‘ Heritage Hills 5 (Ma. Becher 2, Meunier, Doyle, Selvidge); North Harrison 3 (A. Flock 3).