Cougars fend off Generals
Wade Bell, Sports Writer
The North Harrison Cougars and Clarksville Generals boys’ basketball teams played through an offensive royal rumble last Tuesday night with both teams scoring often and the Cougars getting a 79-74 Mid-Southern Conference win. Most of the game was that of trading baskets until North Harrison finally got a big enough gap to pull out the win.
“We did a good job on offense getting good shots and hitting shots,” said North Harrison coach Lou Lefevre. “I’m sure (Clarksville coach Brian McEwen) was just about as disappointed in his defense as I was in mine, and we scored over 40 in the first half, too. So, it was pretty much an even game. The second half was going to go to who played better. Our defense, we stopped them more times so I guess it must have been significantly better, and we kept scoring enough so that we’d have a chance to win the game.”
Both teams came out on fire with more than 80 points total scored in the first half. In the first quarter, North Harrison connected on eight of its 12 field-goal attempts, while the Generals put in 10 of 13 shots. When the first quarter ended, the Generals had a two-point edge, 24-22.
In the second quarter, it was more of the same. The Cougars missed a few more shots, hitting seven of 15 from the field. Clarksville, however, was perfect from the field in the second eight minutes, connecting on all nine of its shots. Ethan Schneider put the Cougars in front early in the second quarter, 29-28, but Clarksville countered with a deuce.
The lead changed hands again when Langdon Hatton scored in the paint and Logan McIntire converted on a Clarksville turnover with a rim-jammer for a 35-32 Cougars’ edge. The two teams went through another swap meet until the Generals finished the half with a 9-1 burst to take a 45-42 lead at halftime.
Much of the first-half scoring came in the paint with Clarksville’s Dae’von Fuqua collecting 28 points in the first 16 minutes.
“And 26 of them were on layups, and he hit one 15-foot jumpshot,” Lefevre said. “Their drivers were better than our defenders, who was supposed to be taking away what they wanted to do. They did what they wanted to do better than we did taking away what they wanted to do, so layup after layup and layup after layup, which was very disappointing. They had shooters, but they didn’t need shooters really in the first half. Why take a chance with the three-pointer when you can shoot a layup every play?”
The third quarter slowed down just a bit, and fewer shots found their way through the net.
North Harrison outscored Clarksville 9-2 to begin the third quarter to take a 51-47 edge. Clarksville sandwiched baskets around a Braden Jenkins deuce, closing the gap to two. The Cougars finished the period with a 5-2 burst and held a 58-53 lead with one quarter left.
The scoring went back into high gear in the fourth. North Harrison extended its gap to eight early in the quarter when Jenkins and McIntire scored inside. Clarksville briefly closed the gap to three when Jaren Starks drilled a three and Fuqua went inside following a Cougars’ turnover. North Harrison countered with four, but Clarksville answered with five, closing the gap to two, 72-70. McIntire drilled a Cougars’ three, but Marquis Forward answered with two. North Harrison held off the Generals from the free-throw line through the last 30 seconds, and the Cougars finished with the 79-74 win.
“If you like lots and lots and lots of quick baskets on every possession, I guess you liked that game,” said a smiling Lefevre. “It wasn’t that it was fast-break baskets. It was just a team would go up the court and within five seconds both teams would get an easy shot, which is amazing. Obviously, we weren’t doing something that they wanted and they weren’t stopping what we wanted.
“Sometimes you kind of feel like if your defense is that weak, you should really lose for the good of your team,” Lefevre said, “but it’s hard to feel that way in the middle of the game when you still have a chance to win. As they scored in every possession on us in the first half, it’s a game usually the other team scores on every possession in the first half you’re down 20. We were down one basket, which was amazing.”
McIntire led the Cougars with 24 points, and Hatton followed with 21. Jenkins had 15 for the night, and freshman Sawyer Wetzel put in 11 points. The Cougars hit 29 of 52 field goals (56%) and 16 of 19 free throws. North Harrison had seven turnovers for the 32 minutes.
“We’ve been doing a great job on offense,” Lefevre said. “I think we’ve had 70-plus points in six of our last seven games. It’s not because we’re flying down the court and fast-breaking. It’s just that we’re scoring. We got good shots. They decided to play a zone, and we hadn’t played very well against a zone but we got exactly what we wanted to. That gave us a chance in the second half and we did a little better on defense. We did a little better, and a little better was enough. We kept scoring, not as easy as the first half, but we kept scoring. We did a little better, so we won by a few points.”
Lefevre also praised his young guns, who tallied for 43 of North Harrison’s points.
“(Riley Schneider) hit some baskets where they weren’t guarding him, and he hit some big baskets for us and he didn’t turn the ball over too much,” said Lefevre. “He did a nice job. We’ve been getting more out of the freshmen lately. We’ve been getting a lot out of Sawyer. Sawyer had a good game. Sawyer has been struggling in a lot of areas, but he’s been doing great for us. Kaleb (Kellems) has had big games, where he’s made baskets. Tonight, Riley did. It’s good for him. We need all of our players to contribute if needed, and that’s what I’m looking for.”
Fuqua had seven points in the second half to finish with 35 for the game. Dakota Capps had 16, Forward finished with 12, and Starks added 11 points. The Generals hit 30 of their 43 field-goal attempts (70%) and 10 of 12 free throws. Clarksville also took good care of the ball with eight turnovers.
“I guess we stopped letting (Fuqua) drive by us for layups,” Lefevre said. “There was nothing to change. We had our defensive strategy that we were playing, any really strong driver who wasn’t a prolific shooter that likes to drive. We had a strategy, and the strategy didn’t work. Strategies are either carried out well or they’re carried out poorly. Three years from now we’ll be talking about, ‘Oh my! Incredible defense! Defensive help, you can’t get anywhere against them.’ Well, someone was carrying it out. Tonight, we weren’t carrying it out very well. He’s a great player, but he’s not a guy who should score 26 out of 28 points in one half on layups.”
The North Harrison coach is now worried that his team’s weaknesses were exposed as the Cougars get ready for their final game against Paoli and sectional.
“Our weaknesses are certainly exposed for everybody in the world to see,” Lefevre said. “If you can’t solve your own weaknesses, that doesn’t bode well. We have a nice record and all, but we have weaknesses that we have exposed for all of our competition to see. If we can’t better them, then we’re going to have a tough time in the playoffs.”
Clarksville 24 21 8 21 – 74
North Harrison 22 20 16 21 – 79
Clarksville (12-7, 6-3 MSC) – Fuqua 35, Capps 16, Forward 12, Starks 11.
North Harrison (15-5, 7-2) – McIntire 24, Hatton 21, Jenkins 15, Wetzel 11, Schneider 6, Kellems 2.
3-point goals – Clarksville 6 (Capps 3, Starks 3); North Harrison 5 (McIntire 5).