Highlanders rally past N. Harrison
Wade Bell, Sports Writer
For three quarters, the North Harrison Cougars had their basketball game Saturday at Floyd Central well in hand and it looked like they were on their way to a dominating win. The only thing was the game is four quarters. That fourth quarter was like a snakebite on the Cougars with the Highlanders rallying to a five-point win after being down in double digits.
“I think we had a little bit of a hangover from the (Jeffersonville) game,” said Floyd Central coach Todd Sturgeon, whose team had defeated the Red Devils the night before. “I think as you look around this year, that’s a bigger factor than it has been in other years. I don’t know if it’s conditioning with all that’s going on or what. … ”
“It’s something that happens every single day, where teams play great for most of the game, then they don’t make the plays they need to make to finish it,” said North Harrison coach Lou Lefevre. “It’s a difficult loss when you don’t win a game that you should have won.”
Both teams and benches were vocal through the first quarter. North Harrison scored the first two baskets of the game, then the teams traded paint for the next few minutes. Langdon Hatton put the Cougars up by four, 13-9, with a pair of baskets in the paint, the second on a bone-jarring dunk from the baseline. Wesley Celichowski countered for the Highlanders with a deuce-and-one, and the Cougars had a one-point edge, 13-12, with eight minutes gone.
“They came out and played well,” Sturgeon said of the Cougars. “They had a great game plan and were running some stuff we didn’t have on the scouting report. They were cutting us up, and we couldn’t get many good shots.”
Hatton traded baskets with the Highlanders through a lot of the second period, getting his second dunk of the night, keeping the Cougars ahead by four. Sawyer Wetzel added a pair of free throws followed by Riley Schneider scoring inside and Logan McIntire rattling the rim with a one-hander to put North Harrison up by 10.
Neither team scored in the final minute of the half, and the Cougars went to the locker room with a 28-18 lead.
“I’ve never seen my team play as well,” Lefevre said. “They played twice as good in the first half as I’ve ever seen them. I barely even recognized them. They were just being smart and just all-out effort, and they were just making great calls on defense and smart plays on offense.”
“We got impatient and missed the (shots) we had,” Sturgeon said. “To their credit, they’re big and strong. … They stymied us. We couldn’t get an offensive rebound. I can’t say enough about their preparation and their play.”
North Harrison’s momentum carried over into the third quarter. The Highlanders briefly pulled themselves into a single-digit deficit when Cole Harritt drove the lane. From there, the remainder of the period belonged to North Harrison, which went on a 10-2 run, with McIntire drilling a pair of three-balls to give the Cougars a 43-27 lead with eight minutes to go in the game.
Jake Heidbreder and Hatton traded free throws to start the fourth quarter. The two teams missed their next two shots, and Floyd Central’s Caleb Washington was called for his fourth foul. At that point, Heidbreder decided it was time to take over. The Highlanders’ senior drilled his first three-ball of the night, and Washington later scored inside. Heidbreder scored again, this time in the paint, but that was negated by Wetzel, who also scored inside.
“Towards the end of the third quarter, we went to a 1-3-1 but it wasn’t really a 1-3-1 because we were just kind of running around,” Heidbreder said. “We were just flying everywhere and just bringing energy again helped us.”
Heidbreder scored the next six points, closing the gap to five with 4:02 to go in the game. Brady Moore followed with a pair of freebies. North Harrison struggled just to get a shot off as the Highlanders controlled the ball. Max Tripure scored in the paint, then Moore converted on a North Harrison missed shot, giving the Highlanders their first lead of the night. North Harrison called timeout with 30 seconds left, but McIntire misfired from behind the arc with four seconds left. Heidbreder was quickly fouled two seconds later and completed a 25-4 run with two free throws to ice the 52-47 win.
“They were doing a good job defending us … ,” Sturgeon said. “We were taking forced, mediocre and bad shots, then eventually Jake saw the ball go in the basket. He got to the free-throw line there one time and had a chance to make it and get a stroke down. He got a steal on defense and he was Superman there for the last six or seven minutes of the game.”
“The thing was, defensively, we couldn’t stop them in the fourth quarter,” Lefevre said. “It was really offensively that we lost the game after getting three quarters of opportunities on almost every possession. I don’t know if we got one good shot the whole quarter. It was lots of turnovers, which lose you games. There’s nothing more hurtful to a game than when you turn it over. You don’t even get a chance to go back and play defense. They take the ball and go down and score, and that happened several times.”
Heidbreder led the Highlanders with 22 points, 19 of those in the fourth quarter. The Highlanders were 18 of 42 from the field (43%), hitting their final seven shots of the game. Floyd Central put in 13 of 14 free throws and had five turnovers.
“They’ve got a great team,” Heidbreder said. “It was just coming out and bringing energy and doing our best, just keep moving the ball and trying to get it inside as much as possible. … ”
At times, Heidbreder had Hatton in his face, making it difficult to get off a shot.
“They were switching everything with ball screens,” said the Floyd Central senior who will play for Air Force next year with hopes of becoming a pilot. “I had LT on me a lot. He’s a big dude so it’s hard to shoot over him, so I thought getting to the rim might be my best option. I was off in the beginning, but once I hit my first three it went through my mind that I’m ready to go.”
“We just got a little momentum,” Sturgeon said. “This happens to every team when you’re playing with a lead and you’re trying to get the clock to run out. You get a little less aggressive; you get tentative, and it’s hard to finish those games off. We said all the time if you just keep grinding and stay in the game, the other team will give you a chance to win most of the time, even good teams. It’s just the way it is.”
Hatton led North Harrison with 20, and Wetzel followed with 11. McIntire added 10 for the Cougars, who put in 19 of 37 field goals (51%), hitting just 1 of 7 in the fourth quarter. North Harrison cashed in 6 of 8 free throws and had eight turnovers for the game.
“Offensively, we were just taking some bad shots we didn’t need to take,” Lefevre said. “At one point, we were up 10 with 4-1/2 minutes and we took a 30-footer. Other times we took difficult shots that we weren’t taking in the other part of the game, and then other times we were just tentative.
“Once they went to a half-court trap, we didn’t run our offense against it well,” he said. “We didn’t run it properly. I don’t know if we were afraid or just got caught up in the excitement and didn’t do it well. We didn’t get easy chances against that either.”
“We hope that in some ways this is going to make them better and help us as we go on,” said the North Harrison coach. “You hope they’ll be young men and they’ll use it in a way to make them better and increase our chances the next time we’re in a big game and we’ve got to get a big stop or get a big offensive, smart play and not panic when teams are pressuring us and not lose the ball. … Whether it happens or not, we’ll have to see about that.”
North Harrison 13 15 15 4 – 47
Floyd Central 12 6 9 25 – 52
North Harrison (8-3) – Hatton 20, Wetzel 11, McIntire 10, Kellems 2, Oakley 2, Schneider 2.
Floyd Central (7-2) – Heidbreder 22, Celichowski 7, Harritt 7, Moore 6, Tripure 6, Washington 4.
3-point goals – North Harrison 3 (McIntire 2, Hatton 1); Floyd Central 2 (Heidbreder 2).
North Harrison 14 22 18 10 – 64
Eastern 3 7 12 17 – 39
North Harrison (7-3, 5-0 MSC) – Hatton 22, McIntire 22, Kellems 7, Fessel 6, Wetzel 5, Higdon 2.
Eastern (4-6, 1-3) – Jones 19, Pickerill 9, Guthrie 6, Jones 3, Gonzalez 2.
3-point goals – North Harrison 5 (McIntire 4, Kellems 1); Eastern 7 (Jones 3, Pickerill 3, Jones 1).