Cougars hold off feisty Panthers
Wade Bell, Clarion News
Noise, intensity, anxiety, tension, disappointment.
All of the emotions one would expect in a county rivalry game were there in North Harrison’s gymnasium Friday night as the Cougars and Corydon Central Panthers got together for their annual basketball matchup before a crowd of basketball fans from both sides. The game brought two new head coaches together for the first time, and it was Lou Lefevre’s Cougars bettering Joe Hinton’s Panthers in a 78-64 win.
“They’re a really big team,” said Hinton after the game. “They’re the biggest team we’re going to play all year. We didn’t block out enough against them. We should have got them out of the lane. We should have been attacking the ball with two guys, two hands, but it’s tough when they shot 70% to 80% in the first half. It was tough on us.”
“We have some size, but I thought that was one of the great first quarters I’ve seen a team play in a big game in a long time,” Lefevre said, “We just came out in the first quarter so ready and played so awesome. Our offense in the first quarter was just brilliant.
“We were frustrating them on defense,” he said. “It was such a great start. It kind of felt like after that great start we just tried to hang on and hang on and hang on. We never had the game surely in hand. They never really got back into single digits; maybe they got to nine. We were just kind of hanging on.”
North Harrison center Langdon Hatton got the Cougars going by drilling a three-ball right out of the blocks. Bryce Weber countered with a Corydon Central deuce, but Logan McIntire drilled a three to start a 12-0 run for a 15-2 lead. Corydon Central regained a little bit of ground, but McIntire drilled his third three of the period, and the Cougars enjoyed a 20-9 lead at the end of the period.
“The game plan was to find out where McIntire was at all times and try to double Hatton when they got the ball into the post,” said Hinton. “We tried to do that, but we lost McIntire a few times and he made us pay. We let him score too much tonight.”
Jagger Holton drilled a Corydon Central three to begin the second quarter, pulling the Panthers back into single digits. The Cougars responded with another run, two of those points coming from a goal-tending call on Jacob Eve for pinning a McIntire shot. Tucker Gentemann put in a deuce inside, and Tyler Fessel drained a three-ball to regain some ground. That was only temporary, however, as the Cougars answered with the next six points. In the last minute, Gentemann sandwiched a pair of deuces around a Braden Jenkins bucket and North Harrison went to the locker room with a 38-22 lead at the break.
“After the first quarter, they caused us to make a lot of mistakes we have to not be able to make,” said Lefevre. “I was just so proud of how they came out in this big game and came out to play and play a great first quarter that gave them the pressure and put it all on them.”
North Harrison was 15 of 24 from the field at halftime.
“Rebounding hurt us a little bit,” said Hinton, “but the fact they hit all their shots was probably more effective.”
The Panthers came out more aggressive defensively in the third period and that caused North Harrison some problems as the Cougars committed five turnovers. The Panthers got a little bit of traction offensively as well, making a 9-2 run to close the distance to 45-34. After McIntire scored inside for the Cougars, the Panthers made another run and pulled back to within single digits, 49-40, with one quarter to go.
“We made a mistake at the end of the half,” Lefevre said. “We were up 18 and we were waiting for the last shot, and our rule is you don’t take a shot until five seconds or less. We took a shot with about eight seconds. It gave them enough time to get the ball down the court and score a last-second shot.
“That’s always a momentum switch to the other team. If we go into the halftime, even if we don’t get a shot off, we go in with 18 and they don’t get the last hoop and don’t get charged up about anything. Often, you can carry that momentum into the second half. We gave them a basket at the end of the half that gave them something to be excited about even though they were still down 16. They kind of carried it right into the next quarter. Pretty soon it was single digits, and it was anybody’s game.”
“We had to pick up the pace,” Hinton said. “We were down 16 points at halftime and (brought) it back. We brought it back to nine and that was great.”
Scoring came fast and furious in the fourth with a total 53 points scored by both teams. For most of the period, it was a matter of trading baskets and free throws. Riley Schneider sank four straight free throws to give the Cougars a 69-54 advantage, but Koleton Kaiser immediately countered with a three. Hatton finally put two massive spikes in Corydon Central’s coffin with a pair of bone-rattling dunks. The Panthers continued their fight to the end but ran out of time with too much space in the 78-64 loss.
“The kids fought hard,” Hinton said. “I was impressed with the ball handlers. We were able to get some steals. We still didn’t capitalize on all of their turnovers. Hopefully, we’ll be able to capitalize on the turnovers we create against teams we play.”
“We had trouble stopping them in the second, third and fourth quarters, and part of the problem we were turning the ball over and giving them easy chances,” Lefevre said. “We had trouble stopping them for the final three quarters, but we were doing just enough on offense, hitting some big shots and making some big plays. We broke the press enough to get a few easy chances. We turned it over a few times, but we got some layups and some fouls around the rim.”
McIntire led the Cougars with 26 for the game, and Jenkins followed with 17. Hatton poured in 16 for the Cougars, who were 27 of 48 from the field (56%) and 20 of 25 from the stripe. North Harrison had 14 turnovers for the 32 minutes.
Lefevre was also pleased with the performances of four of his freshmen, who are making a big jump from junior high to varsity.
“(Kaleb) Kellems and Sawyer Wetzel and (Riley) Schneider and Brody Fessel, those are four of our top seven with Ethan Oakly out,” he said. “If you can play against another pretty good team and you’ve got four of seven freshmen, that’s awesome. When you usually have a team with four freshmen out of their top seven, that’s a team that’s going to lose most every game this year. I don’t feel like we’re going to lose most every game. I hope not. I hope we get more than two wins. We’ll have to see about that.”
“Hatton had one of his best games that he’ll have all year,” Hinton said. “He hit a couple of shots from the outside, hit a couple of jumpers.”
“We’ve got to work on blocking out and getting them out of the paint and get more boards,” said Hinton. “And we’ve got to work on defense where their best shooters are at and be able to get out on them.”
“We were lucky we were able to recover from that third quarter,” Lefevre said. “They did a good job. Four of our top seven guys are freshmen and, for high school basketball, that is something you just never see. But, that’s who we are, and I like the freshmen and I believe in them but it’s tough. They’re coming from eighth-grade basketball to this big charged, varsity event. It’s tough, and they’re here and they’re playing, and I believe in them.
Corydon Central 9 13 18 24 – 64
North Harrison 20 18 11 29 – 78
Corydon Central (1-2, 0-1 MSC) – Kaiser 16, Fessel 15, Gentemann 11, Holton 8, Weber 6, Martin 5, Adams 3.
North Harrison (2-0, 1-0) – McIntire 26, Jenkins 17, Hatton 16, Schneider 8, Kellems 4, Wetzel 3, Fenn 2, Higdon 2.
3-point goals – Corydon Central 2 (Fessel 1, Holton 1); North Harrison 4 (McIntire 3, Hatton 1).