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Highlanders cage Cougars

Highlanders cage Cougars
Highlanders cage Cougars
North Harrison’s Sawyer Wetzel (center) wedged himself in between Floyd Central’s Caleb Washington and Bryce Schmidt in the first half. Wetzel had 22 points but the Cougars suffered a 56-47 loss. Photo by Wade Bell
By Wade Bell, Sports Writer

Saturday night’s boys’ basketball game of Floyd Central against visiting North Harrison was also one of former North Harrison assistant coach Greg Walters versus his mentor with North Harrison head coach Lou Lefevre. Walters had one thing going for him that Lefevre didn’t have: more size and depth.

The two teams fought hard from beginning to end but, when all was done, the Highlanders’ size and depth proved to be the difference as Floyd Central came out with a 56-47 win.

“Coach Lou Lefevre is one of the best coaches in the state of Indiana, so to be able to beat one of his teams is a great honor,” Walters said after the win.

“We had some guys play well, and one thing we’ve been preaching in some of these games is patience. Sometimes we run low on it and tonight, when something wasn’t there, we were able to pull it back out and run another thing,” he said. “If it wasn’t there, we ran something else. We got the mismatch or the shot we wanted.”

“We know what our size is,” Lefevre said. “Our size isn’t going to change, and we’re going to have to play bigger, stronger, faster people and we have to be able to do a little more than we were able to do tonight to make it hard for them.”

Floyd Central came out with a 6-1 burst, but the Cougars quickly countered twice in the paint to close the gap to one. Both teams were getting points in the paint, Tre Walters and Kaden Stewart scoring for the Highlanders and Sawyer Wetzel putting two in for the Cougars. With two minutes to go, Floyd Central had a 6-2 burst to take a 16-9 lead after one quarter.

The two teams traded baskets to start the second quarter, then Stewart hammered in his first of two dunks. Brody Fessel countered with a three-ball. The two teams traded baskets again, then Caleb Washington put in a deuce and three for a 27-17 Floyd Central lead. The battle in the paint continued with Wetzel getting a deuce-and-one. Washington scored the last bucket of the half, and the Highlanders went to the locker room with a 29-20 lead at halftime.

“You’ve got to make sure that they can’t easily throw the ball into the paint,” Lefevre said. “We have a strategy on trying to keep the ball out of guys’ hands in the paint. We had to do it last night too (at Eastern Pekin) because of their 6-11 kid. We didn’t do a bad job, but this team had multiple players who were very athletic.

“You can’t relax. If you relax, the player runs across your face and pins you, then what can you do,” he said. “If you’re pinned by a guy four inches bigger than you five feet from the basket, it’s just a question of staying alert. You’ve got to make sure you win the spot.”

The first few minutes of the of the third quarter went back and forth again, then Floyd Central scored three times in the paint for a 40-27 lead. The Cougars got part of that back when David Langdon scored inside and Kaleb Kellems drilled a three, Floyd Central’s lead cut to eight, 40-32, with one quarter to go.

The two teams traded free throws to start the fourth quarter, then Tevi Ali scored inside, pushing Floyd Central’s lead back to nine. Washington later added to that with a deuce, but the Cougars got the next four from Wetzel and Bryce Fessel, Floyd Central’s lead down to seven with just more than three minutes to go.

Walters and Wetzel traded freebies, then Stewart pounded his second dunk of the night, Floyd Central’s lead back to nine. Stewart later sank a single, but Kellems countered with his second three of the night. North Harrison called a quick timeout with 1:41 to go in the game. Both teams turned the ball over following the break. Washington put in a deuce, but Brody Fessel drilled a three to cut the gap to six, 52-46.

Ali scored again in the paint for the Highlanders, and Walters called a quick time with 42.6 seconds to go. Wetzel got one of two free throws with 30 seconds left, and the Cougars called timeout. Ali put in two final free throws for the Highlanders, then time ran out for the Cougars, who succumbed in the 56-47 loss.

“There late we gave up some late threes and that was a little frustrating, but they did a good job of knocking them down and pushing the ball up quickly,” Walters said. “Kellems did a great job of getting the ball out of bounds and pushing it so fast to create some confusion. Kaleb Kellems is a good guard, and Wetzel, Sawyer hit some shots and has been shooting the ball well all year. They have a solid team.”

“We’re right there in desperation mode,” said Lefevre. “We’ve got to do some sort of pressure defense and trap and have got to make them make a mistake or they’re going to dribble off the block. With as little of depth we have, we can’t start fouling on purpose or we’ll run out of players.”

Washington led the Highlanders with 22 points for the game, and Ali finished with 12. Stewart added 11 for Floyd Central, which was 24 of 60 from the field 460%) and 9 of 11 from the charity stripe and had 10 turnovers.

“They’ve got some really skilled players that we just had trouble keeping from getting to the rim and getting the chances they needed,” Lefevre said. “They’re big and strong. (Ali) is just a big, fast, strong guard. We couldn’t keep him out of the lane. (Washington) is just a big, strong kid who was getting the ball in the basket. They got second chances early in the game. We actually started playing nice defense, and they missed most of their first shots, but (Stewart) got rebound putbacks and on the fast break they outran us and got a layup.”

Wetzel led the Cougars with 22 points, and Kellems finished with 9. North Harrison connected 13 times of 33 field goals (39%) and put in 11 of 17 from the charity stripe. The Cougars had 9 turnovers for the game.

“It’s easy to say, ‘Don’t let someone go with their right hand but, when you have a guy as big and as strong as Wetzel, he was just able to power his way through,” Walters said. “That’s why he’s a really good high school basketball player.”

Walters said he hopes the momentum from this win will carry through the second half of the season and his team learned that patience pays.

“This is only our third home game, and we wanted to take some pride in defending the home court,” he said. “We were able to do that, and we were looking for some momentum. We’ve been playing better and that hasn’t led to wins, but we just kept saying, ‘Stay the course, stay the course.’ Even though we weren’t perfect tonight, we were able to get a win.”

“There’s still time left, and I hope the players see they still have an opportunity and we’re not going to waste the opportunity,” said Lefevre. “You hope that’s the attitude. If that’s the attitude, you still have a chance to get to where we need to go. Right now, we’re plateauing. We had a nice weekend. When you have a really nice performance in a game, the true question is, ‘Can you do it again?’ Great teams are consistent.”

North Harrison     9   11   12   15 – 47
Floyd Central         16   13   11   16 – 56
North Harrison – Wetzel 22, Kellems 9, Bro. Fessel 8, Bry. Fessel 6, Langdon 2.
Floyd Central – Washington 22, Ali 12, Stewart 11, Walters 5, Conrad 4, Cardwell 2.
3-point goals – North Harrison 6 (Bro. Fessel 2, Kellems 2, Wetzel 2); Floyd Central 1 (Washington).