Cougars win cat fight against Panthers
Wade Bell, Sports Writer
Last Wednesday, there was a cat fight in Corydon between two big cats, the North Harrison Cougars and the Corydon Central Panthers. Both had one thing on their minds: to advance into the semi-final round of the Corydon Central sectional. Both teams clawed their way at each other for 32 minutes but, in the end, the Cougars had a little sharper nails and rolled past the Panthers 56-43.
“There’s no such thing as a bad win in the post season,” said North Harrison coach Lou Lefevre. “Every one is awesome in the post season. It doesn’t matter how it happens. You’ve survived. Half the teams in the state didn’t survive, and you go on and you get to try it all over again. It was an awesome win against a team that was capable of beating us.”
“It’s a tough feeling and it’s a tough pill to swallow,” said Corydon Central’s first-year coach Joseph Hinton. “Losing in sectional and losing in the post-season is always tough. It’s the end of the season. We’ve lost three great young men, three seniors graduate and, as a team, our season is over and that’s just upsetting. Tonight, I had a bad feeling, a bad taste in our mouths. I thought we didn’t give our best effort out there tonight or give our best game. The effort was there but our game was not, and it was upsetting to be there.”
In the early going, the game was tight despite the fact that the Panthers were not shooting the ball that well, hitting just three of nine shots. North Harrison found its range in the middle of the period and made a 7-2 run to lead 15-7 after the first eight minutes. The Cougars missed two of nine shots in the first eight minutes.
Neither team shot the ball well in the second period, but North Harrison began the quarter with a 7-1 burst for a 20-10 lead. Jacob Eve pulled the Panthers back into single digits, scoring inside, but North Harrison scored the next four. Jagger Holton finally scored in the paint, then North Harrison missed twice. Corydon Central had two chances to get back in the game but missed twice from downtown, leaving the Panthers with a 24-15 deficit at halftime.
“They had a couple of freshmen become big scorers since the first game we played them,” said Lefevre. “They were a little bit of a different team, and their big scorers were a couple of different people. They were really more of a guard, perimeter-shooting team more than they were the first game. They had a few more weapons than we had to face the first time.”
The Panthers hit six of 25 shots from the field the first half.
“We really wanted to space them out, and we wanted to attack the middle when it was open,” Hinton said. “We didn’t go up strong, and we weren’t able to finish baskets. … More importantly, on the defensive end, we were going to make other kids shoot besides (Logan) McIntire and (Langdon) Hatton. I thought for the most part we did do that and did a good job.
“Our main focus was to get good ball movement and attack their gaps, collapse their defense and then get easy baskets,” he said. “We just didn’t do it tonight. We didn’t create any gaps. We weren’t spread out enough, and it wasn’t very good on our part.”
The Cougars lit up the nets to begin the third quarter, starting the eight minutes with an 8-3 burst. Corydon Central tried to stay in the game, and Taylor Fessel put together his own 6-2 run to pull the Panthers back within 10, 36-26. North Harrison, however, countered with a 7-0 run with the Panthers missing their three shots from behind the arc. McIntire sank three free throws at the end of the quarter, and the Cougars had a 43-26 lead going into the final eight minutes.
Corydon Central continued to fight hard, but trading points back and forth didn’t gain the Panthers anything. Corydon Central’s biggest run didn’t come until the last two minutes when the Panthers finished with a 9-3 burst but fell by a 56-43 decision.
“Really, the biggest thing we were worried about was the pressure and turning the ball over, and we didn’t do that great of job,” Lefevre said. “We made a lot of turnovers against their pressure, and that’s an issue. It will be an issue Friday if the same thing happens. Defensively, we did a good job of knowing what their players wanted to do and take what they wanted to do away. We held a team that scores 60-plus very often to 43 and we didn’t have a great offensive game.”
“We didn’t hit the basket very well, and I think we ended up missing 11 free throws, so we end up losing by 13,” Hinton said. “That’s a big deal when you miss that many free throws. Defensively, we held them to 56 points, so I was very proud of that. I thought we played tough on Hatton. I thought we tried to make McIntire work for every basket he had. I was really impressed with the way we protected the basket and got rebounds.”
McIntire led the Cougars with 25 points for the game, and freshman Sawyer Wetzel finished with 13. North Harrison connected on 19 of their 37 field goals (51%) and 15 of 21 free throws. North Harrison had 14 turnovers for the game.
“Sawyer Wetzel just made some big plays and hit all of his free throws and had some big rebounds, so he was terrific picking up the slack for Braden (Jenkins), who is not 100%,” Lefevre said. “So, getting that boost from him was big.”
“He’s really good at driving right, and we didn’t stop him driving right tonight,” Hinton said of Wetzel. “He loves to drive right, and he’s pretty good at a spin move. We just weren’t there on him when we should have been there. He got a couple of trash baskets on us, a couple of garbage buckets that really got to us. He’s come a long way this year, and he’s starting to become their third or fourth leading scorer for their team.”
Jacob Eve and Koleton Kaiser led the Panthers with 10 points each. Corydon Central managed 16 of 50 field goals (32%) and seven of 18 free throws. The Panthers did a good job of taking care of the ball with eight turnovers for the 32 minutes.
“We just couldn’t throw a ball in the air on the offensive end,” Hinton said. “We weren’t moving the ball. We didn’t create the gaps and all of those things that are necessary in order to win.”
Hinton loses three seniors to graduation.
“They were the best leaders I could have asked for,” he said. “They gave all of their heart and soul to Corydon Central, and I am very lucky to have them. I couldn’t have done it without them. They gave me all they had every day, and I’m just very proud of them … In my books, they will always be a Panther and they will always have a spot in my locker room and in my life.”
North Harrison’s next opponent was top-ranked Silver Creek, which disposed of Charlestown 88-51 earlier in the night.
“You have to stop everything that they do,” Lefevre said. “They’re a team that has great players on the perimeter, great players inside. They have great spot shooters when you help too much. You’ve got to stop everything. You’ve got to not let their pressure cause the turnovers that happened in the first game.”
“Teams around the country, at the right time, sometimes put their best game together at the most important time, and we could be one of those teams or we could not be one of those teams,” he said. “We’ve got to try to put our best performance on display at the most important time, playing the No. 1 ranked team. That’s a wonderful opportunity to see if you can do it.”
North Harrison 15 9 19 13 – 56
Corydon Central 7 8 11 17 – 43
North Harrison (18-5) – McIntire 25, Wetzel 13, Hatton 9, Jenkins 6, Kellems 3.
Corydon Central (11-13) – Eve 10, Kaiser 10, Weber 7, Fessel 6, Martin 5, Holton 4, Gentemann 1.
3-point goals – North Harrison 3 (McIntire 3); Corydon Central 4 (Kaiser 2, Fessel 1, Weber 1).