Oakley buzzer-beater downs Pioneers in OT
By Wade Bell, Sports Writer
North Harrison senior Ethan Oakley hit just one basket during the North Harrison Cougars’ game at Providence Friday night. It turned out, however, to be one of the most important baskets of his life as it was the final shot of against the Pioneers for a 42-41 win in an intense back-and-forth ballgame.
“I’ve hit some layups before but nothing like that,” Oakley said after game.
“That was worth the price of admission if you were a fan,” said North Harrison coach Lou Lefevre. “It was exciting certainly.
“I’m glad we had this game this close to sectional because this is like a sectional game where it’s going to be intense and it’s going to be aggressive and there’s going to be a big crowd,” he said. “It’s just a different atmosphere than a lot of regular games. … ”
Early on, the game was purely defensive with neither team hardly gaining on the other. Max Beatty drilled a three for the first basket of the game, but North Harrison countered with eight unanswered points, six of those coming in the paint. Beatty answered that with a pair of free throws and his second three to tie the game at eight. Garrett Hoehn scored for the Cougars at the end of the period, and North Harrison had a 10-8 edge.
Both teams shot poorly in the second quarter, North Harrison hitting just three of its 11 field goals and Providence canning three of nine. Baskets went back and forth through the eight minutes with the advantage going to the Cougars for a 16-14 lead at halftime.
Providence focused most of its defense on North Harrison senior Logan McIntire, holding him to just two points in the half.
“Generally, good high school players, if they get easy shots, they make most of them,” Lefevre said. “If they don’t get easy shots, they miss most of them. So, they did a real good job on Logan, and then we missed some other shots. It was a physical game on both sides, and sometimes that throws off your concentration, your shooting when you’re getting bumped a little bit. You’d like to get a call, but you’re not getting a call. I just kept telling them you’ve got to be able to finish the plays expecting you might get bumped or slapped on the arm.”
Providence lost McIntire at the start of the second half, and the North Harrison senior rattled the rafters with a two-handed dunk. Providence countered in the paint, but Kaleb Kellems drilled a three-ball for a 21-16 lead for the Cougars. The Pioneers rallied back with six to take a brief 22-21 lead. McIntire hit from behind the arc, but Cade Carver tied the game with two down the lane. Neither team scored from that point, and the fourth quarter began tied at 24.
North Harrison held the advantage through the first 3-1/2 minutes of the fourth, but then Casey Kaelin hit a jumper and Beatty canned a three, Providence up by three. Riley Schneider and McIntire both scored inside, giving the Cougars a one-point edge. McIntire put a huge block on Tyler Simmons. Kellems hit two free throws for a 36-33 lead, but Kaelin tied the game from downtown with just over 30 seconds to go. Providence called timeout and, in the last half-minute, North Harrison failed to score to send the game into overtime.
“I don’t think our defense was as great in the second half but, defensively, we did as good of job as they did on us,” said Lefevre. “I told them at halftime, sometimes you have to play a game where it’s 70-68 and it’s a fast game and you’ve got a lot of shots and you’ve got to win the games under those conditions, too. Tonight is going to be a game where you’re going to have to grind it out and it will probably be in the 30.”
In the overtime, the ball stayed on North Harrison’s end of the court through the first minute and a half. Kaelin then drew his fourth foul and Kellems canned both, Cougars up by two. Kaelin answered that with a three, putting the Pioneers back in front. McIntire tied the game with a freebie. The Cougars missed their next two shots, then Simmons put in deuce for a 41-39 edge.
The Cougars then called timeout with :23.2 left and possession of the ball. The Cougars moved the ball around then went inside to Schneider. Schneider then saw Oakley in the left corner and hit him with a sharp pass. With a second to go, Oakley got off the shot and the buzzer went off while the ball was in the air. The ball went down the drain, and the Cougars celebrated the 42-41 win.
Lefevre said there was no set play at the end.
“We kept playing,” said the North Harrison coach. “We had to gamble and trap and press on the last play. We got them to take a shot, and they hit it. We got one more chance, and I just let the play happen. Up until Ethan got the ball with one second left, it looked like a good thing to just let the play happen without setting anything up. Who knows what the best thing is in that situation. … he ended up catching the ball open and he put the shot down. He missed a lot of shots he might normally make but the percentages even out sometimes.”
“My buddy Riley (Schneider) got it to me underneath and I fumbled it at the three-point line and just shot it and it ended up going in,” said Oakley. “Everybody came over and celebrated. It was a great feeling.”
Kellems led the Cougars with 13 points, and McIntire had 10 for the game. North Harrison hit 15 of its 37 field goal attempts (41%) and 8 of 11 free throws. The Cougars finished with 13 turnovers.
“You just have to have the mental toughness,” said Lefevre. “In this game, this is what we’ve got to do. You’ve got to work, work, work ’til we get what we want. We did it good enough to stay in it. We got a lead in the overtime and a lead in regulation, too, and the best player ended up getting the shot.”
Beatty led Providence with 13, and Kaelin finished with 12. The Pioneers fired in 16 of 30 field goals (53%) and connected on all four of their field-goal attempts. Providence finished with 10 turnovers.
With one game remaining before next week’s sectional game against Charlestown, Lefevre said he hopes his team can continue to finish like they have their last seven games.
“It’s not a question of winning or losing the game,” he said. “It’s a question of being in this game and just understanding what you need to do in this type of game. I hope next time, if we’re in this game next week in the sectional, that we’ll be even better than we were tonight on the little things that you have to do we when you’re trying to close out the game. That’s how a good team will approach it, and I hope my team will approach it the same way.”