Cougars outrun Rebels 58-46
By Wade Bell, Sports Writer
In a battle between the north and the south, the North Harrison Cougars and South Central Rebels went at each other in a face-paced four-quarter running game for 32 minutes. In the end, the Cougars proved to be the strongest of the two, earning a 58-46 inter-county win.
“You’re playing against a team with three- and four-year starters that have been through all kinds of things,” said South Central coach Greg Robinson. “I told the kids before the game we’re not going to do anything that’s going to shock them. We have to be good at what we do to win the game. They did what they needed to do in the second half to win the game, and we didn’t go a very good job to stop them.”
“We have new players that have such room for growth, and then we have experienced players who can play but sometimes they have to try to not do too much,” said North Harrison coach Lou Lefevre.
“Maybe some of them tried to do too much a little early on and that led to some mistakes. That’s part of being an athlete. You’ve got a good gauge of what you need to do.”
The first quarter was a horse race between the two teams with the lead going back and forth through the eight minutes. Late in the period, Bryce Fessel scored in the paint for the Cougars for a 10-7 lead, but Cole Thomas drilled a late three, tying the game at 10.
The back-and-forth exchange continued into the second quarter with the Rebels holding a slight edge. North Harrison then had its first big run of seven unanswered points, five of those coming from the free-throw line, for a 23-17 advantage at halftime.
“We were in real good shape in the first half,” Robinson said. “Even though we were down six, we were just a couple of missed shots away. We could have easily been ahead at halftime if we played really well.”
“The first part of the game they were scoring very easily up to the first quarter and a half,” said Lefevre. “Then we played some good ball defensively and on offense to go from behind to up six at half. We never pulled away ’til the last quarter.”
Sawyer Wetzel gave the Cougars an eight-point advantage to start the second half. The Rebels countered with a 6-2 burst and moments later closed the gap to two, 30-2,8 on a deuce-and-one by Thomas. The teams went through a brief dry spell, then the Cougars finished out the quarter with five straight points for a 35-28 lead with one quarter to go.
North Harrison began the last quarter with six, Wetzel drilling a three for a 41-28 lead. Thomas countered from behind the arc, and Ty Jones followed with a Rebels’ deuce. South Central failed to get any traction through the remainder of the game, and the Cougars went on to post the 58-46 win.
“I want us to bust it down the floor to get a good shot,” Lefevre said. “On offense, I want us to be aggressive and take the first good chance. That’s kind of how we play. They were deliberate in the first half. There were times we were playing good defense for 30 or 40 seconds, and finally we made a mistake and they scored. That’s what a lot of teams do.”
“We were seven deep because we had a couple of kids with the flu and we got in foul trouble a little bit, too,” said Robinson. “That kind of hurt us I think. It wasn’t so much we wore down. I think we got frustrated and it was our own doing. It was a physical game, and we have to learn how to handle those things a little bit better mentally.”
Wetzel led the Cougars with 13 points, and Brody Fessel followed with 12. The Cougars connected on 17 of 36 field goals (47%) and 23 of 31 free throws and had 13 turnovers. Probably the biggest stat was freshman Bryce Fessel taking five charges in the game, most of those in the second half.
“We played lots of kids who have never been on a varsity court before,” Lefevre said. “Bryce Fessel, he was in eighth grade last year, and Bryce was tremendous. He gave us a trememdous spark on offense and incredible defense. He took five charges. I’ve been coaching 30-something years, and my old record was four in a game … I think he had a sixth or seventh and they just got tired of calling them. You get to the point where there’s a limit, but that was tremendous.”
“I think those were more out of frustration,” Robinson said. “We don’t see the physical play on a regular basis like North does. They’re playing in a little tougher conference, and that’s just the way they play. Coach Lou is one of the best defensive coaches in all of Southern Indiana. They play physical, but it’s clean. They don’t let you go anywhere without you knowing they’re there. Our young kids didn’t handle that for a stretch there.”
Thomas led South Central with 25 points, and Jarrett Ferree had 11. The Rebels put in 19 of 44 from the field (43%) and 6 of 10 free throws. The Rebels finished with 15 turnovers.
“In the games we play early, it would be really nice to play some of those teams later on,” Robinson said. “I think we have a high ceiling, and it’s just going to be a matter of getting some of our young guys a little bit more experience into the pressure of the game. We’re playing a completely different style than what we played last year, and that’s kind of hard, too. They’re used to one way, and now we’re asking them to do something completely different that I do think it’s what we need. It will come. I feel good about it.”
“Every game you get a chance to look at what you did well and what you didn’t do well,” said Lefevre. “Then you try to correct the things you didn’t do well. If we made 35 mistakes during the course of the game and the next game make only 25 mistakes, then we’re probably 15 points better. As the games go on, you try to look at the things you’re not doing well and get good at them and keep doing the things you’re doing well. That’s how I approach it.”