Cougars rally, knock off Brownstown in OT
One driving message from North Harrison coach Kevin Jones to his players about playing at Brownstown Central is to recognize the crowd and community support.
Always a challenging place to play, the Braves have consistently been at the top of the Mid-Southern Conference leaderboard. In fact, they put together back-to-back perfect league seasons.
This year, North Harrison was able to go on the road and upend the Braves in overtime, 52-51 Friday night. Brownstown Central, a program that has ousted the Cougars the last two campaigns in the postseason, lost to North Harrison for the first time since 2002-03.
‘We figured it up; they’ve been beating us by an average of 25 per game,’ Jones said. ‘There haven’t been too many close games. They’ve had a good run for 15 years against us. I told the kids it was a good atmosphere and crowd support. When you are good for 15 years, this is what you get at home. Before we are good for 15 years, we have to be good this year. I thought we went out and proved we were a good team.’
In key moments, North Harrison found gold from beyond the arc. Its only three 3-pointers of the game came in the fourth quarter and overtime. Down by as many as nine in the fourth, guard Eli Gutknecht buried a triple for North Harrison.
Continuing to chip away, a Braden Jenkins field goal cut Brownstown’s lead to one, 42-41, with a minute to go. A pair of Isaiah Wineinger freebies pushed the margin back to three.
Clutch from downtown, Max Flock evened the score at 44 to force overtime.
‘Fourth quarter, we went in down eight and started chipping away at them,’ Jones said. ‘Jake Book and Jake Harley made some things happen. Max Flock hit a big 3 then took a charge in the last minute. Eli hit one to cut it earlier. We only had three 3s the whole game, but they were big ones down the stretch.’
Book and Flock had field goals early in the OT, but each was countered by the Braves. It wasn’t until Gutknecht took a pass from Skyler Wetzel and drilled a long ball for a 51-49 North Harrison lead.
Brownstown Central leveled the score again with a Michael Boshears bucket. North Harrison then turned the ball over, but two chances inside by the Braves were missed.
‘Brownstown goes down and missed a contested layup,’ Jones said. ‘Somehow they got the rebound in a scrum but missed the put-back. Jake Harley came out with a head full of steam and got a foul out of it.’
Harley drew a foul to put him at the line with a few ticks left. He made his second free throw, allowing the Cougars to leave Brownstown with an MSC victory.
‘It shows we do have a will to win,’ Jones said. ‘We were able to dig in. I thought the first half against Silver Creek we showed some glimpses but couldn’t sustain it.’
One key stat for the Cougars was rebounding. They out rebounded Brownstown Central 32-15, led by 13 from Jenkins and seven via Quinn Kaiser. Jenkins also had 11 points and two steals.
‘Jenkins had a bunch of rebounds,’ Jones said. ‘We owned the backboards.’
Flock and Book had 10 points apiece in a balanced scoring effort. It was the first game back for Book after he was sidelined with an injury after the season opener.
‘Getting Jake Book back was big, of course,’ Jones said. ‘He played under control and made some big plays for us. He and Jake Harley teamed up for us as a pretty good defensive combo. They can really get after you.’
The Cougars didn’t shoot a high percentage ‘ 41 from the field and 13 of 23 at the charity stripe ‘ but they found a way to win a big game.
‘Their pressure made us turn it over more than we should,’ Jones said. ‘In the end, we were able to come up with the winning plays. We haven’t been able to do that against them in the past. The two times we played them last year we put together two really good first halves. The second half in those got away from us.’
It was a comeback for the Cougars, who trailed 8-0 at the start.
‘It’s good to get over the hump; it’s a huge win for the program,’ Jones said. ‘They’ve won 28 of the last 29 MSC games. People don’t understand. Some may say Brownstown is down a little bit ‘ maybe they are ‘ but I can guarantee that club will win a bunch of games … It was big for us to win on the road. There is some toughness there. We were really tickled.’
Gutknecht finished with eight points, while Harley contributed seven. Wetzel had five points.
Now, the Cougars will look to build on their success. They’ll get a shot to avenge an early season loss to Heritage Hills. The two drew one another in the first round of the PSC Holiday Classic field.
‘Now that we’ve had success, we have to see how we react going forward,’ Jones said. ‘We had a good look at (Heritage Hills) the first time. Having Jake back will help us, too. That’s a game we didn’t play real well and was the first without Jake. We did make a run to make it a one-possession game with four or five minutes to go but never scored again. We think we have a good chance at the re-match. We have to play better.’
North Harrison 6 11 8 19 8 ‘ 52
Brownstown Cent. 8 18 7 11 7 ‘ 51
North Harrison (4-2, 2-1 MSC) ‘ Jenkins 11, Book 10, Flock 10, Gutknecht 8, Harley 7, Wetzel 5, Haub 1.
Brownstown Central (4-1, 2-1) ‘ Luedeman 19, Boshears 8, Kinsler 8, Wineinger 6, Borden 6, Garland 4.
3-point goals ‘ North Harrison 3 (Gutknecht 2, Flock); Brownstown Central 5 (Luedeman 4, Wineinger).