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Crawford County closes out Cougars

Crawford County closes out Cougars
Crawford County closes out Cougars
North Harrison's Skyler Wetzel drives his way into the lane against Crawford County's Nick Stroud, right, and Trevor Harvey in the second half. Photo by Wade Bell
Wade Bell, Sports Writer

When it comes to a Crawford County-North Harrison match-up in any sport, you know it’s going to be a knock-down, drag-out between the two rivals. Friday night’s boys’ basketball game between the two teams was no exception, with the host Wolfpack hitting a few more shots and the Cougars missing a few more in Crawford County’s 61-51 win.
‘It was a good effort tonight for our team,’ Crawford County coach Jerry Hanger said. ‘That’s a good win. North Harrison is not that bad. Their record (8-11) doesn’t indicate what kind of a team they’ve got. I think they’re well-coached. We made some plays early in the game.’
North Harrison hoped to get an advantage with its size, especially with the loss of Crawford County junior forward Colten Nickelson, who suffered a broken arm a few nights before against West Washington.
‘We knew what they were going to do,’ North Harrison coach Kevin Jones said. ‘They didn’t surprise us. We knew when Nickelson was playing, (Trevor) Harvey wasn’t getting as many minutes. We’ve been here several times and seen him knock down five, six, seven 3s. So, we had to assume when he got extended minutes, he was still going to be able to do that.’
Hanger said he worked to get his team prepared for the game without Nickelson.
‘Our talk since Colten’s been gone has been the next man up,’ he said. ‘We’ve talked about how important it is to keep moving forward. Our goals have not changed. The method we’re going to play has not changed. We’re down one player, but we’re also looking to move one player up.’
The first 12 points of the game came from behind the arc. Crawford County’s Christian Carlton and Harvey drilled the first two, then North Harrison’s Eli Gutknecht buried one. Harvey countered immediately, and Crawford County (15-4) jumped to a 9-3 lead. The well went dry for both teams for the next few minutes, then North Harrison’s Braden Jenkins scored in the paint.
Crawford County junior Preston Coleman countered with two deuces. Langdon Hatton got one of two free throws, and Jenkins added a deuce to keep the Cougars to within five, 13-8. Crawford County finished the period with another 3-pointer from Harvey and a deuce by Wyatt Allinger for an 18-8 lead.
Coleman scored again to begin the second quarter, then both teams went cold again for nearly three minutes. Allinger sank four straight free throws for the Wolfpack for a 24-8 lead. Nick Stroud scored in the paint for Crawford County, but Hatton put in a deuce and two free throws, making the score 26-12. Crawford County made a two-point gain in the final minute, and the Wolfpack went to the locker room with a 30-14 advantage.
‘The start that we had didn’t help,’ Jones said. ‘We had plenty of opportunities in the first half. We shot 5 of 28 from the field. When you shoot less than 20 percent, that makes things kind of tough. A lot of those shots were in close. We’ve got to be able to hit those shots. Crawford County came out early and hit some big shots early, and we were scrambling.’
‘Early on, we clogged the middle up,’ Hanger said. ‘We played a 1-1-3 defense, and I thought it was outstanding. We only worked on it one day. We had to do something to clog the middle. If nothing else, just slow them down. But, you had to get out ahead. Obviously, we did and then put a little pressure on them. They had some turnovers against our press early on. The 1-1-3, I thought, tonight was outstanding. We blocked the middle up, and I’m pretty happy with the way the kids responded with it.’
The Cougars came out of the locker room with some traction in the third quarter, beginning with an 11-3 run to close the gap back to single digits, 33-25.
After a brief trading session between the two teams, Hatton scored twice, getting the Cougars back to within six. North Harrison scored the next five to close the gap to one, 37-36. Coleman buried a 3-ball near the end of the quarter, and North Harrison missed a two at the end, putting Crawford County’s lead back to four, 40-36, with one quarter remaining.
‘We knew North Harrison would come out with a vengeance the third quarter, and they did,’ Hanger said. ‘We didn’t play very well the third quarter, and a lot of it had to do with North Harrison. But, our kids responded.’
‘We had all the momentum and just never could get over that hump,’ Jones said. ‘I felt like there were a couple of times in the game where we were one (defensive) stop away. We cut it to one, and we’re one stop away from being right back there. If we take the lead, maybe it comes out a little bit differently. We cut it to one and then we go down and got out of position defensively, and they hit a big 3 in the corner and go to four.’
The two teams traded baskets during the early going of the fourth quarter, but Crawford County was also finding itself in foul trouble as Carlton and Preston Coleman drew their fourth fouls.
Following a Cougars’ timeout, Crawford County outscored North Harrison 7-3, extending its advantage back to eight, 55-47.
From there, the game went to the free-throw line, and that’s where Crawford County capitalized. Allinger put in four straight free throws to finish the game, and Crawford County got the 61-51 win.
‘When they made a run on us and got it to one, now it’s time to buckle down and play some ball,’ Hanger said. ‘We called timeout, and we told them, ‘Remember who you’re playing. They didn’t come down here to watch us play ball. They came down here to beat us.’
‘One of the things we told them was they really need to get out and take control of the game, because we’re watching them play. The first half they watched us. Now, we’re watching them. So, we need to be aggressive and take the game to them. We came back to them and got pretty aggressive at that point. It was pretty good.’
The Cougars had to deal with some bad timing when Jake Harley was called for his fifth foul at a time when North Harrison was reeling in Crawford County.
‘That was kind of at a bad time, too,’ Jones said. ‘We were down six and had the ball, and, if you throw a 3 in there, it’s a one-possession game again, but he fouled. He set an illegal screen there, so it is what it is. The points where we got back in, I was proud of our effort in the second half and how we fought … ‘
Harvey led the Wolfpack with 21 points, sinking five 3-pointers. Allinger finished with 16 points, hitting all 14 of his free-throw attempts, eight of those in the fourth quarter, and Coleman had 12. Crawford County was 19 of 46 from the field (41 percent) and 16 of 21 from the charity stripe. The Wolfpack finished the 32 minutes with just seven turnovers.
Hatton led the Cougars with 20 points, and Jenkins followed with 13. North Harrison put in 14 of 40 field goal attempts (35 percent) and 20 of 27 free throws. The Cougars, however, had 21 turnovers.
‘We made a nice run there in the second half and we cut it to one, and it seemed like every time we cut it, they hit a big shot,’ Jones said. ‘They hit a lot of free throws down the stretch to kind of keep us at bay. We were kind of in scramble mode there at the end.’
‘We’ve got to get off to a better start,’ he said. ‘That hurt us against Austin. We were down 24-7. The game tonight, we scored 14 points in the first half. You’re not going to win very many games when you score 14 points in the first half.’

North Harrison 8 6 22 15 – 51
Crawford County 18 12 10 21 – 61
North Harrison – Hatton 20, Jenkins 13, Gutknecht 9, Jones 4, Wetzel 4, Harley 1.
Crawford County – Harvey 21, Allinger 16, Coleman 12, Stroud 6, Carlton 4, Adams 2.
3-point goals ‘ North Harrison 3 (Gutknecht 3); Crawford County 7 (Harvey 5, Coleman, Carlton).