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Braves storm past NH

Braves storm past NH
Braves storm past NH
North Harrison's Skyler Wetzel puts in this off-balanced shot in the second half against Brownstown's Jordan Peters. Photo by Wade Bell

On a night when tornadic storms would eventually make their way into Washington County, the Brownstown Central Braves stormed all over the North Harrison Cougars in the opening round of the Class 3A Salem Sectional. North Harrison fought to the end last Tuesday, but the end came sooner than the Cougars wanted, as they finished their season with an 11-12 record.
‘We came up a little short on the court tonight, but we’ve got great kids,’ North Harrison coach Kevin Jones said. ‘They do awesome in school. I don’t have to worry about them. They’re great citizens. They’re a good group of human beings. I’m very proud of my team.
‘A couple of years ago, I thought North Harrison would have rolled over and got beat by 30 in that game,’ he said. ‘I think our kids have made that change, and they fight. They don’t give up.
‘Brownstown was No. 1 for a good part of the year, and they deserved to be No. 1 for a good part of the year,’ Jones said. ‘We got in a spot where we could have rolled over and played dead and they could have beat us by 30, but I thought we did a good job.’
North Harrison struggled with handling the ball in the first period, turning it over nine times. The Cougars’ only lead came on the first points of the game, when Skyler Wetzel scored in the paint. Brownstown Central scored the next eight points before North Harrison’s Jake Book drove the lane for two. Despite the growing number of turnovers, North Harrison stayed within striking distance, down six, 13-7, after one period.
North Harrison cut its turnover rate in the second period, but Brownstown Central lit up the nets, outscoring the Cougars 12-0 to begin the quarter, with Ty Maxie drilling three straight three-balls during the run for a 25-7 Braves’ lead.
North Harrison clawed its way back into the fight with a 6-2 burst to close to within 12 at 27-15. The next two minutes went scoreless, then Maxie sank another 3-pointer. Book scored inside to end the half, and the Braves went into the locker room with a 30-17 advantage.
‘We got off and we were patient and, after 2-1/2 to three minutes, it was 2-2, which is where we wanted it to be,’ Jones said. ‘With a team, it’s just so hard because of the pressure they put on you. It’s easy to say we’re going to try to hold the ball, but, then, when you’ve got them out there in your face trapping you and they’re quick and he’s got all them guys that are 5-10 to 6-1, they’re interchangeable and they’re strong and they’re fast, and they’re seniors. He’s got 10 of them, which is big.’
Both teams turned the ball over on their opening possessions of the third period. Max Flock then drilled a North Harrison 3-pointer, and Book converted off a second Brownstown Central turnover to close the Braves’ advantage to eight.
Brownstown Central punched in the next four, with Carson Lambring hitting from behind the arc. Flock got two from the charity stripe, but the Braves finished the period with an 8-2 run to lead 42-26 with one quarter left.
‘We got it down to (eight) and we had a chance to get it down farther than that, but we just couldn’t string enough plays together,’ Jones said. ‘They’re so good. Every time we tried to make a run, they answered with a big three or a big play.’
The Cougars fought back again in the fourth quarter, pulling to within 11, 47-36, after two free throws by Flock. Following a timeout with 3:19 to go, North Harrison got the game back to single digits when Flock drilled a 3-pointer to give the Cougars new hope as Brownstown Central led 50-41. The Braves, however, finished the game with an 8-2 run to win 58-43.
‘They’re a very good team; that’s the bottom line,’ Jones said. ‘The 1-2-2 press and the half-court trap, we thought we’d get it in the middle, and we had a couple of charges. That double-foul on Jake (Book) there in the first quarter didn’t help us any. Max got fouled shooting a three, and they called it afterward. Those are little plays here and there that maybe, if it had gone a different way, it would have given us a little momentum.’
Book led North Harrison with 15 points, and Flock followed with 14. Wetzel added 10 points for the Cougars, who hit 13 of 32 field-goal attempts (41 percent) and 14 of 20 free throws. Turnovers proved to be the biggest impairment with North Harrison committing 23 for the 32 minutes. The Cougars did win the battle of the boards, 31-27.
‘Jake Book is a phenomenal ball handler, but we’ve got other kids that are just taking off,’ Jones said. ‘Jake Troxell finally stepped up and handled the ball a little more than probably he should have. He wasn’t scared of the moment. I don’t know if anybody was scared of the moment. We’ve got more ball-handlers available. Normally, Jake (Book) gets the ball and runs down the court, and we’re fine. With this team, you can’t get caught doing that against a team like Brownstown.’
Maxie led Brownstown Central with 20 points, and Lambring hit for 18. Cody Waskom poured in 14 points for the Braves, who were 18 of 50 (36 percent) from the field and 15 of 20 from the charity stripe. Brownstown Central had nine turnovers.
‘Ten seniors against one; those guys have won 80 games now in four years,’ Jones said of the Braves. ‘They’ve been a part of a winning tradition in basketball, and they know all the little things they need to do to win games.’
The Cougars’ lone senior is Troxell, who will join the Navy following graduation.
‘I couldn’t be any more proud of that kid,’ Jones said. ‘He did so much for this team. He’s done so much for this program. It bothers me more than anything that he didn’t get a chance to get a little success at the next level, winning a sectional game or two, just having a chance to compete for the title. He’s a great kid. … ‘
Jones said, with nearly all of the team returning next year, as well as a good group of underclassmen moving up, the Cougars have a chance to be something special if they do the work during the off-season.
‘Now, we’ve got to get to work if we want to take that next step and beat a Brownstown and Salem and Silver Creek, and next year have a chance to cut down sectional nets,’ he said. ‘This time next year, we’ve got to put in work. We’ve got to get better shooting the ball. Our ball handling has got to be better. I thought we rebounded the ball well tonight for the most part. We did give up a couple of key, crucial offensive rebounds, and it seems like they got a couple of long ones and hit threes.
‘All in all, we’ve got the potential to be very, very good,’ Jones continued. ‘Our feeder program is in good shape. But nobody’s ever won a sectional based on middle school success. Our middle school program, we’ve got more ‘basketball first’ kids than we’ve ever had. We’ve got some kids that love basketball, and I know we’re going to work. That helps a program, too.’

North Harrison 7 10 9 17 ‘ 43
Brownstown Central 13 17 12 16 ‘ 58
North Harrison (11-12) ‘ Flock 14, Troxell 2, Book 15, Jenkins 2, Wetzel 10
Brownstown Central (22-2) ‘ Lambring 18, Bushers 2, Bane 2, Maxie 20, Waskom 14, Peters, 2
3-point goals ‘ North Harrison 3 (Flock 2, Wetzel); Brownstown Central 7 (Maxie 5, Lambring 2).