Cougars muzzle 1A No. 3 Orleans
The last time the North Harrison Cougars and Orleans Bulldogs met on the basketball court was in 1978 in the old North Harrison gymnasium, which is now the middle school facility. Saturday night they met again in the newer North Harrison gym and battled for 32 minutes until the Cougars came away with a 66-55 win.
North Harrison coach Kevin Jones knew the Bulldogs could be dangerous, having assisted Mike Brown against Orleans coach Tom Bradley during Jones’ stay at both Paoli and Crawford County. Even with Bradley losing almost all of his varsity players to graduation last year, Jones was not about to take the Bulldogs lightly. Not only that, the Cougars were coming into the game following a horrendous night at Silver Creek and Jones didn’t know what to expect from his own team.
‘Orleans is a great team,’ he said. ‘Tom Bradley is a hall-of-fame coach. I knew all this. Some people that don’t know better will say, ‘A 3A should beat a 1A.’ But they have no idea what type of program he has built and runs. So, I knew that.’
‘After playing Silver Creek last night ‘ our kids played horrible ‘ we told them it wasn’t about how many times you get knocked down,’ Jones said. ‘It’s about how many times you got back up, and we got back up in a big way tonight.’
The Class 1A No. 3 Bulldogs didn’t make it easy for Jones’ Cougars to start the game as Orleans had an 11-6 lead midway through the first period following a three-ball by Chase Hall. Jake Book drove the paint for the Cougars, and Alex Eveslage later followed with a deuce, closing the gap to one. Jaxton Smith countered in the paint for Orleans, and the Bulldogs had a 13-10 edge after one quarter.
Hall drilled another three to begin the second quarter, upping Orleans’ lead to six, 16-10. North Harrison answered with four, but Hall sank his third three of the night. The Cougars countered with a 7-3 burst to go back in front 24-20. Orleans stayed in the hunt the remainder of the half, being down just six, 30-24, after two quarters.
‘We knew they were going to come and be prepared to play,’ Jones said. ‘They have some size. They have three or four 6-4, 6-5 kids. They’re disciplined. They’re very fundamental. They do not beat themselves. It was important for us to be patient offensively. I told them we’re worried about scoring 60 or 70 points. We were patient tonight and had 66 points.’
Jones said his team was still rubbing the wounds from the Silver Creek game but he worked to keep his team in the flow.
‘Just staying tough,’ he said. ‘We just did not compete last night. Silver Creek is a 3A power. They’ve established that. We’re trying to get our program to where they are. It takes time. We’ve made some steps in the right direction. Last night, we took a couple of steps back.’
The Cougars started the second half with a 9-2 run to briefly take their lead to double digits, 39-28. Hall later drove the paint twice, pulling Orleans back to within seven, 44-37. Alex Flock countered with a three for the Cougars. Duncan Gerkin answered with a deuce-and-one for the Bulldogs, who were down seven with one quarter left.
‘We just talked about how we defended everybody but Hall,’ Jones said. ‘I think he had 13 out of their 24. We talked about how we wanted to guard him a little bit better. We felt like Gerkin, we did a good job on him. Their big people, we did a good job. We talked about just keep rebounding, keep being patient. We thought they were tired. We ran people in and out a little bit more than what they did.’
Orleans continued to stay within seven early in the fourth quarter, but Flock put in a pair of freebies and a three to push the Cougars’ advantage to 54-42.
The Cougars kept their lead in double digits the rest of the quarter.
‘We knew they weren’t going to quit,’ Jones said. ‘We knew they were going to play all the way to the final whistle, but it’s their program. I’ve seen it a million times before, be it at Crawford and at Paoli. Every time you think they’re going to be down, they’re not. That’s a credit to (Bradley) and the program he’s built. It was a good team win for us tonight.’
Flock led the winners with 23 points as he drilled four three-pointers in the process. Eveslage tallied 15, and Chandler Jenkins finished with 13. North Harrison canned 20 of 38 field-goal attempts (53 percent) and 14 of 18 from the charity stripe. The Cougars had just eight turnovers.
‘We had eight kids that made contributions,’ Jones said. ‘Everybody guarded. Everybody ran our sets. We shared the ball. If there was ever a team victory, I think this would be a good example of one for us.’
‘I think our bench played well tonight,’ he said. ‘Even though, from a scoring stand-point, it wasn’t big, but we got big minutes from Max Flock and Quinn Kaiser. Trevor Haub came in and did a good job for us. That was big for us too to keep playing.’
Hall led Orleans with 16 points, and Gerkin finished with 13. Smith added 10 for the Bulldogs, who hit 15 of 41 field-goal attempts (37 percent) and 14 of 19 free throws. Orleans finished with 13 turnovers.
‘We’re pleased with how the weekend ended,’ Jones said. ‘We’re not real pleased with how it started, but we bounced back and we’re going to be around at the end of the year and show people we can be a good team, too, if we play the right way and do the right things.’
Next up for the Cougars is a road trip to Brownstown Central, where they will have both their hands and feet full against the Braves. Jones said the game will be an important one for the Cougars to stay in the Mid-Southern Conference race.
‘To be 4-1, we’re very pleased,’ he said. ‘We’re not pleased with how we played and completed last night, but it was a night. So, we can bury that and move on. Brownstown, nothing against Silver Creek, they’re awesome. To me, Brownstown is Silver Creek on steroids. We’ve played a lot of ball this summer and seen a lot of teams; they’re one of the better teams, if not the best 3A team, in the southern part of the state. They’ve got shooters. They’ve got guards. They pressure the ball. They trap and press. They really get after it.’
Orleans 13 11 16 15 ‘ 55
North Harrison 10 20 17 19 ‘ 66
Orleans (3-2) ‘ Gerkin 13, Hall 16, Johnson 9, Smith 10, Tolliver 5, Allen 2
North Harrison (4-1) ‘ Haub 4, M. Flock 1, A. Flock 23, Troxell 2, Jenkins 13, Book 8, Eveslage 15
3-point goals ‘ Orleans 5 (Hall 4, Johnson); North Harrison 4 (A. Flock 4).