Cougars maul Panthers in Big Cat Classic
By Wade Bell, Sports Writer
Rivalries in any sport can be intense. Everybody is wanting bragging rights. Whether it’s a county, conference or sectional rival, players want to show that they’re better and come out beating their chests to show their strength like two silverback gorillas getting ready to duel. The intimidation factor always shows up during rival games.
It was no less that during Friday night’s boys’ basketball game between the North Harrison Cougars and Corydon Central Panthers in the Big Cat Classic. In an intense night, the two teams went at each other for 32 minutes. The Cougars, however, proved they were the strongest on this night with a big second-half performance that allowed them to get a 65-41 Mid-Southern Conference win over the Panthers.
“They certainly came out ready to play,” North Harrison coach Lou Lefevre said of the Panthers. “They looked like a significantly better team than last year. They’re much improved, and they were giving us some trouble, both on offense and defense. I think as the game went on we got some people free for some easier looks. Sometimes in transition we got some easier looks. Sometimes we maybe just ran the play well enough that we got Logan (McIntire) some looks. He hit some big shots and helped put it away.”
“It was rough for us but, honestly, looking back on it we had few shots,” said Panthers’ coach Joseph Hinton. “We did not shoot very well. We didn’t shoot a very good percentage from the free-throw line, and we had 18 turnovers or more. If we take care of our own mistakes, it’s a different ballgame. I know it was a big margin, but we’re looking up and it didn’t feel like a big margin to us. We’re looking forward to growing and getting better each day.”
Bryce Weber gave the Panthers the initial lead with a three-ball for the first basket of the game, but McIntire came out on fire with eight straight points, including a put-back dunk that most likely set off seismographs in the Wabash Valley fault zone. McIntire later drilled a three for an 8-3 Cougars’ lead. The two teams began trading paint until Sawyer Wetzel scored inside for a 16-8 North Harrison edge. Both teams got another basket, and the quarter ended with the Cougars up 16-8.
Riley Schneider and Kaleb Kellems gave the Cougars their first double-digit lead with four points, but Corydon Central answered with Tyler Fessel drilling a three and Anthony Martin getting two in the paint, closing the game to seven. The rest of the quarter saw the two teams go back and forth with North Harrison still holding an eight-point edge, 30-22, at halftime.
Lefevre said McIntire got his team going in the right direction to start the game.
“He hustled down the court and got the putback on a miss on someone else’s fast break,” he said. “Kaleb Kellems had some nice finishes, fast-break finishes, driving finishes. I think he hit a three and gave us an offensive punch, too.
“We were doing some of the things all right, but we needed to do it a little better,” he said. “We were getting beat on the boards, and we were forcing things on offense, trying to throw things up too soon without making their defense work. You’ve always got a better chance of getting an offensive rebound once you make them work.”
Hinton said McIntire was his team’s main focus with hopes of at least slowing down the North Harrison senior.
“We wanted to try to slow him down, and I think Bryce did a good job,” Hinton said. “I think the other guys need to step up a little bit more and slow him down if they know he’s in the area. I was OK with double-teaming him and letting him get rid of the ball. I think we just lost him. I think we lost focus for a split second. A good player like that, if you lose focus on him, they’re going to make you pay.”
The Panthers lost McIntire at the beginning of the third quarter when the senior drilled a three-ball. That was followed by an Ethan Oakley deuce, and North Harrison’s lead ballooned to 35-22. Fessel got two of those back, scoring inside, but the Cougars countered with four.
Moments later, a Cory-
don Central turnover led to McIntire getting loose and everybody in the North Harrison gymnasium knew he was getting ready to rattle the boards again. Instead, McIntire was fouled heavily and that led to a war of words between players resulting in technical fouls on both teams. McIntire scored one of his two freebies, and the Panthers misfired on both of their chances. Austin Vaughn converted inside on the next Panthers’ possession, but McIntire countered with a three. Wetzel got the final bucket of the period, and North Harrison’s advantage was 46-31.
Early in the fourth quarter, as the Cougars made another run, a baseball cap came flying out of the North Harrison student section and onto the floor, leading to the ejection of the student committing the infraction delaying the game. In the meantime, the Cougars put up 10 straight points, pushing their lead to 57-31. Weber tried to get a Corydon Central run going, putting in seven of a 9-1 Panthers’ run. That still wasn’t near enough as the Cougars cruised on to get the 65-41 win.
“We did a really good job in the second half offensively in scoring, taking what they gave us and scoring,” Lefevre said. “We did a better job, and they had a lot of open looks. They could have had a lot more than 22 points at halftime. They missed some wide open shots with good shooters, and we were fortunate.
“The second half they didn’t get a lot of open looks. We played much better ‘D’ and forced some turnovers and so that was good,” he said. “It was a good win. They’re a solid team, and we’re just trying to get things together so, if you win a game, and you win it fairly handily right now, you’ve got to be pretty happy.”
“I think we ran out of gas the second half,” Hinton said. “We had a couple of guys coming back from injuries, and we didn’t have our legs the entire time. We lost focus there towards the middle of the game, and I think that has to do with the game and how it was playing, how hard we were going and sometimes you can lose physical and mental focus and that happens.”
McIntire led the Cougars with 24 for the night, and Kellems was close behind with 21. The Cougars connected on 19 of 41 field goals (46%) and 18 of 29 free throws. North Harrison finished with 12 turnovers.
“In the second half, Ethan Oakley gave us some good play rebounding,” Lefevre said. “We were getting out-rebounded the first half, and he had two fouls so we had to hold him out of the whole rest of the first quarter and the second quarter. He did a good job playing inside. We had a lot of guys at halftime in foul trouble. Wetzel had three and Ethan had two and Logan had two and Riley had two. That was a problem. That’s why we held the ball with a minute-20 left. I wanted just to get to halftime without any more fouls.”
“We lost McIntire way too many times tonight,” said Hinton. “He’s a really good player. … He’s a Division I basketball player. We lost him a few times, and he made us pay. He had a great night and hurt us tonight.”
Weber led the Panthers with 15, and Trey Wiley followed with 10. Corydon Central put in 16 of 40 field goals (40%) and 5 of 11 from the charity stripe. The Panthers finished with 17 turnovers.
“I take away our character,” Hinton said of the game. “I thought our kids were very respectful in the fourth. I thought we fought hard. I know we made a lot of mistakes tonight, but we didn’t hang our heads. We fought hard and that’s all you can ask from kids. When things aren’t going right, you can either go left or you can go right. You can go up or you can go down, and I thought our kids chose the high road in a lot of situations and all they did was fight hard. I was very proud of them for that.”
Lefevre said he has some players in positions they’re not used to and also needs to get his team in better basketball shape.
“Right now, we have three guys that it’s their first time on the varsity team,” said the North Harrison coach. “They’re not deep on the bench. They’re our seventh, eighth and ninth guys, and they all had to play a lot tonight. In terms of conditioning, every single one of our players play another sport in the fall. None of them are really training for basketball like a lot of the teams are. I don’t think right now we’re in good enough condition.”
Corydon Central 10 12 9 10 – 41
North Harrison 18 12 16 19 – 65
Corydon Central – Weber 15, Wiley 10, Vaughn 7, Ables 5, Martin 4.
North Harrison – McIntire 24, Kellems 21, Wetzel 9, Oakley 4, Schneider 3, Fessel 2, Moore 2.
3-point goals – Corydon Central 3 (Wiley 2, Weber 1); North Harrison 4 (McIntire 3, Kellems 1).