Cougars roar back to beat WW
Wade Bell, Clarion News
For a while, it looked like the West Washington Senators were going to vote down North Harrison’s homecoming Friday night at Ramsey with the early voting going red, white and blue. What happened later, however, was a landslide victory for the blue-and-white Cougars, who dominated for the remainder of the game in a 70-48 win.
“It was good,” said North Harrison coach Lou Lefevre. “It was really probably the first time we really got down and came back and took command of the game. We tend to either get off to good starts and then do well or get off to poor starts and not do well. I can’t think of a game where we got down really early and had to fight and come back. That’s always a good thing.”
The Senators campaigned hard in the first quarter, hitting six of their first seven shots from the field, while the Cougars misfired on their first four attempts. Parker Green and Holden Bowsman sandwiched threes around a Sawyer Wetzel deuce for a 16-8 West Washington lead. Logan McIntire scored in the paint for the Cougars, but Bowsman drilled a three in the remaining seconds and the Senators had a 19-10 after one quarter.
“It didn’t look like it was going to be a happy homecoming for the Cougars,” Lefevre said. “We just got really outplayed. We got off to a bad start and forced some very difficult shots. That usually leads to bad defense and, with bad defense, the guys are looking around and are like, ‘What are we doing? What are we doing?’ We’re not playing good defense.”
Everything changed in the second quarter with the Cougars rushing back like a Pacific tsunami. North Harrison started the second quarter with a 16-0 run that was finally stopped by a Jake Strange deuce. Moments later, Strange, a 6-6, 240-pound center, drew his second foul on a charge over Kaleb Kellems and was forced to the bench. That opened up the doors for the Cougars, who slapped down an 11-2 run to outscore the Senators 27-4 for a 37-23 lead at halftime.
“It doesn’t usually turn around that fast,” said Lefevre. “That was quite a turnaround in the second quarter when we outscored them 27-4. Again, it’s usually one side of the court affects the other side of the court. If you’re playing good defense and frustrating them, they don’t play as good defense on the next possession usually. I know that’s how it is with my team. Once we started playing good offense, it picked up our guys to play better defense. Once we played better defense, then their offense kind of sunk a little. So, that was really good.”
West Washington tightened its game following the break and traded paint with the Cougars. Bowsman created his own 6-2 burst, but Langdon Hatton rattled the rafters with a dunk. The Senators kept step with the Cougars through the end of the quarter but still had a big hole to climb out of down 52-37.
Strange put in a pair of free throws for the Senators to start the fourth, but North Harrison countered with a 10-2 run to lead 62-41. West Washington never recovered from that run, and the Cougars went on to post the 70-48 win.
“We got way down, but we did a good job of not panicking,” said the North Harrison coach. “We got back to playing offense well where we were willing to make a few passes and find an easy shot and hit it. The more shots that you make, the more players get charged up to play defense. When the score starts turning around, then they start losing their confidence. They’re, ‘We don’t have the lead anymore. I’ve got to make this shot,’ and it’s not so easy to make the shot.
“Then, we had to go out and continue to keep outplaying them and we were able to,” he said. “We probably didn’t outscore them much in the second half or we did enough that it never got to be a close game again.”
Sawyer Wetzel and Braden Jenkins led the Cougars with 19 points each, and Hatton finished with 17. North Harrison was 25 of 41 from the field (61%) and 15 of 19 from the charity stripe. The Cougars finished with 11 turnovers.
“Sawyer Wetzel got some big baskets for us and some big rebounds and some big finishes for us that really gave us a boost,” Lefevre said. “That’s what we need. If they’re going to focus all their energy on one or two of our guys and we can get another guy to put in some hoops and grab some offensive boards and give us second chances, that makes us a much better team.”
Lefevre said Strange did a good job on Hatton early, but his second foul on the charge against Kellems to put Strange on the bench was a big key in the win.
“As the game went on, he maybe got a little tired early, and LT was able to maneuver him and score on him,” he said. “But, he was doing a heck of a job in the first part of the game making it almost impossible for LT to get what he wants. We weren’t finding the open guy on the double-team either when they double-teamed.”
“That made the second quarter a lot easier for us inside when he wasn’t in the game,” Lefevre said. “Players who can make that play on defense, who can take a charge or screen a star out, and he goes over your back and makes a foul and now he’s on the bench, that’s not one play. That’s worth two points and sometimes that’s worth 12, 14 points. Him having to sit down for a while really also gave us a boost. It was partially because we had a great defensive play and took a charge on him.”
Bowsman led the Senators with 24 points, and Strange followed with 14. West Washington canned 18 of 32 field goals (56%) and 7 of 10 from the charity stripe. The Senators turned the ball over 15 times.
“Their shooters hit the first couple of shots that were easy ones and they got confidence, and, when they weren’t so easy, they were making them still,” said Lefevre. “ … All in all, it was good to see us not panic and come back and take command of the game after that.”
The turnovers have killed us,” he said. “There was one stretch where we made two in a row and we were up 18. We made two careless, sloppy turnovers where they go down the court and shoot layups … We stopped there and got back to playing smart, so that was good to see.”
West Washington 19 4 14 11 – 48
North Harrison 10 27 15 18 – 70
West Washington (10-3) – Bowsman 24, Strange 14, Green 5, Farmer 2, Huff 2, Lopp 1.
North Harrison (11-5) – Jenkins 19, Wetzel 19, Hatton, 17, McIntire 9, Kellems 5, Reynolds 1.
3-pointers – West Washington 5 (Bowsman 4, Green 1); North Harrison 3 (Kellems 1, McIntire 1, Wetzel 1).