What's in your wallet? - NH goes undefeated in Mid-Southern
Alan Stewart, Contributing Writer
Buoyed by a 28-point night by senior Langdon Hatton and a balanced attack on both ends of the hardwood, North Harrison knocked off Austin, 73-45, Saturday night and did something in Scott County that had never been done before in the history of its boys’ basketball program: win the Mid-Southern Conference championship outright.
With a spotless 9-0 record, the Cougars (17-3) snared the MSC title for the first time since 2003 (when it shared the crown with Scottsburg) and netted its first undefeated mark since joining the league in 1978.
In addition — while he downplayed the accomplishment — North Harrison head coach Lou Lefevre picked up the 300th win of his Hoosier career and the 586th overall as the Cougars won their ninth straight game and 15 of the last 16.
“This couldn’t have been at a more unfortunate time,” Lefevre said. “After the game, people are talking about the team won the conference and it’s great, and I’ve got a 300th win, which goes against everything I’ve been telling them as a coach, that statistics don’t matter. It’s all about the team and what the team can do.
“People are putting those two things together and I’m like, ‘Stop it.’ It’s a stupid stat that doesn’t really mean anything. I could care less. I’m not sure what 300 wins in Indiana means. I’ve had a long coaching career, and every place I’ve coached has been great to coach at, and every win was a real win. But even if it was a career, who cares? It’s like on our team when it comes to who the leading scorer is, who cares? It’s about the team and trying to do stuff as a team. I wish it didn’t happen at the same time because I don’t want those two things being put together as if they should be in the same sentence next to each other. One was a big team deal, and the other is a meaningless stat.”
“Great teams remember team accomplishments and championships they won and things they’ve done together,” Lefevre added.
While some teams use past losses or bulletin board material as motivation, Lefevre inspired his bunch with a piece of paper and a wallet. On the paper he wrote, “First Mid-Southern Conference Championship in school history” and placed it in a wallet and asked his players if anyone wanted to carry the wallet around. The recipient of the wallet wound up being Hatton.
“The team’s had the attitude ‘Don’t let anyone take your wallet. This is ours … ’ We went through the whole (conference) schedule and did not let anyone take our wallet, and now we have it forever,” Lefevre said. “That was a fun thing to try to accomplish. We had games that were tough along the way, but the kids were serious about it and we’ve gotten better as we’ve gone along. I’m proud of them, and they should be proud. It makes them a special team and, no matter how the rest of the season goes, this is an awesome thing to be able to say that they did it.”
Saturday’s win came from a tremendous effort on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.
Hatton scored the first seven points of the contest, and North Harrison connected on its first five shots of the game in taking a 14-4 lead. Austin battled back with an 8-0 spurt, but Logan McIntire sank a pair of free throws and Hatton had a deuce inside to hold an 18-12 advantage at the end of the first quarter.
North Harrison had dead-eye aim again to start the second quarter as it hit its first five shots on buckets by Riley Schneider, McIntire, a steal and lay-in by Brody Fessel and back-to-back shots by Hatton to open a 28-12 lead before the Cougars missed a goal attempt with 4:30 left in the half.
Austin’s Brysen Montgomery got hot and scored seven unanswered points before Ethan Oakley stopped the bleeding. The final two minutes of the quarter turned into a free-throw fest with the Cougars going into the locker room with a 36-24 lead.
“We started the game and we got (Hatton) several easy hoops, and they adjusted. They were very physical and very aggressive, and we weren’t that poised at different times. We made a lot of turnovers and that kind of kept them in the game. It was good enough and good enough on that night,” Lefevre said. “It was kind of a difficult game for us because we played Clarksville on Wednesday and that was a big game, and we managed to win that one, and then we played Providence on Friday and that’s a team that you have to expend a ton of energy if you are going to beat them. They set the standard for moving and running and pressuring. Three games in four days … we weren’t at our best, but that could have been Austin going at us full tilt.”
The Cougars started the third period on a 9-0 run but lost Austin (3-14) shooters multiple times to help keep the hosts interested until the 1:15 mark after a goal by Brenden Mosier. From there, North Harrison’s lock-down defense took hold and helped blow the game wide open.
Hatton dunked for the final points of the third period to put the visitors up 56-40. The Eagles’ next bucket wouldn’t come until four minutes were left on the clock. By the time the final buzzer sounded, North Harrison had held the hosts to five points in the quarter.
“The guys fought hard, but this is just our fourth game this month,” Austin coach Randy Edwards said. “It’s hard to get any kind of momentum going if you aren’t in the gym. I’m not making excuses because (North Harrison) is a very good ball team, and everybody is going through it at some level. We just aren’t where we need to be right now.”
The Cougars, which dominated Austin in rebounding, 34-22, were 25 of 41 (61%) from the floor, 1 of 6 beyond the arc and sank 22 of 36 from the foul stripe. Austin shot 15 of 34 (44%) from the field, hit 4 of 14 on triples and went 9 of 13 at the line. North Harrison forced 17 turnovers and gave up 10 of its own.
“This is a big deal,” Lefevre said. “Teams that are motivated teams and are serious are always looking to break new ground and looking to do things that other teams haven’t been able to do to make yourself a special basketball team. There was an opportunity for us right off the bat with the first conference game being against Silver Creek. We were able to win that first game, and from that point on we said this was an opportunity for us if we are serious about it.”
After Hatton, Wetzel scored 15, Schneider had nine, McIntire finished with eight and Oakley scored five. Montgomery and Peyton Gwin had 11 apiece for Austin.
“Even if (Hatton) is scoring, even if he scores half of our points, that doesn’t make us a one-man team,” Lefevre said. “Our kids have done a great job of getting him the ball and allowing him to get the ball where he can make maneuvers to score and they sacrifice.
“We have a team that’s focused on getting him the ball where he can score, so every one of his points is a shared score with teammates,” he said. “McIntire all season has had guys face-guarding him and never leaving him no matter what. That has helped us to have opportunities for other kids, and he plays that role and, if he can score, he scores.”
“It’s about putting yourself aside for the good of the team, and I’m proud of the way the kids have evolved into doing that as the season has gone along. At times, there were places where it didn’t look like it was going to be an easy win. When you get to this second half of the season and other teams maybe aren’t having their best season, they are all looking to get a season-making win, so they’ll be pumped up and hoping to knock us off. Even if you are technically the better team, it’s hard to win every single time in these games and it happens every single day at every single level of basketball. … That’s why it’s been since 1976 since there was a team that went undefeated in college. The team that wins the national championship in college usually got beat six or seven times. We didn’t win (MSC) with a 7-3 record. We won them all.”
Friday’s win over Providence was almost a mirror image of Saturday’s. It also wrapped up North Harrison’s first undefeated home slate since 2003.
North Harrison 18 18 20 17 – 73
Austin 12 12 16 5 – 45
North Harrison (17-3, 9-0) – Hatton 28, Wetzel 15, Schneider 9, McIntire 8, Oakley 5, Fessel 4, Higdon 2, Walters 2.
Austin (3-14, 0-7) – Gwin 11, Montgomery 11, Mosier 10, Rice 9, Watts 2.
3-point goals – North Harrison 1 (Wetzel 1); Austin 4 (Gwin 2, Montgomery 1, Mosier 1).