December 21, 2011The Crawford County Wolfpack gave coach Mike Brown an early Christmas present Saturday night, as they pulled away from the Jeeps of Northeast Dubois to give him his 400th career win. Brown is in his 25th year of coaching and has accrued a record of 400-173.
"Once you get close to something like that, then you want to get it," Brown said. "You don't want to quit before you get there. I don't think you start coaching thinking you're ever going to get this number of wins.
"I had a kid the other day I hadn't seen in about five years who played for me at Paoli. He was in the military 17 years and, when you have kids like that come back, then you're happy when you get to these milestones because it means you've coached some pretty good kids."
"I'm glad that we got it for him, but I also know that we weren't the only ones to be a part of it," Crawford County senior Isaac Bowles said. "I'm sure he's just as grateful for his Paoli players and so on."
Crawford County’s Eric Harned tries to get a hand in to strip the ball away from Northeast Dubois’ Cody Knieriem in the second half of the Wolfpack’s 66-48 win.
To get that win, however, which was also done on homecoming night, the Wolfpack first had to get pass the Jeeps, who were coming off an emotional victory over Forest Park the previous night. Brown said he knew getting the win wasn't going to be easy.
"They beat Forest Park last night by seven, and they were down 17 the first half and Forest Park is a very good team," Brown said. "We knew this was going to be a tough game. Coach (Terry) Friedman does a good job. The kids are well coached, and tonight it was a matter of us just hanging in there and trying to wear them down a little bit."
To wear the Jeeps down, Brown pushed the pace early. Crawford County quickly jumped to a 10-4 lead, but N.E. Dubois pulled back to within four at 12-8. Jordan Nickelson then swished a three-ball, but Bryce Huebner countered from behind the arc. With a second left in the quarter, Crawford County center Johnny Schwartz also showed he could hit from behind the arc, giving Crawford County an 18-11 advantage after one quarter.
Crawford County pushed its advantage to double figures in the second period, with Nickelson scoring inside for a 24-14 lead. N.E. Dubois again fought back to within six when Huebner hit a three from the next county. Nickelson countered from behind the arc, but Cody Knieriem swished a short jumper, and the Wolfpack took a 30-23 lead to locker room at halftime.
"I think we worried about everybody the first half," Brown said of N.E. Dubois' shooting skills. "We left Huebner open a few times, and he really hurt us with three's. Once we started to cover up, I thought we had a pretty good job of making them hit contested shots."
"I would have preferred to slow the game down a little bit, and it looked like there for a while we were going to be able to do that," Friedman said. "We felt like they were a team that liked to get up and down the court and press you a little bit, press you in the half court. We knew they had some pretty good shooters from the outside. We really wanted to take away their dribble penetration as best we could. I think their back-cuts hurt us a lot, too, in the first half."
N.E. Dubois pulled back into the game early in the third period with an 8-3 run that closed the gap to two, 33-31, following a free throw by Tyler Haas. The Jeeps stayed within striking distance until Bowles drilled a three to end the period for a 47-39 Wolfpack lead.
"Dubois fought back two or three times and got back within two or three points," Brown said. "Every time they responded, then we responded back. That's something that's really good to see because you're going to have some really tough games coming up."
Bowles began the fourth quarter with another three for a 50-39 Wolfpack lead. Nickelson converted 5 of 6 free throws to complete an 8-2 run for a 55-41 lead. From that point, the Wolfpack cruised to the 66-48 win.
"The kids made us look awfully good tonight," Brown said. "They got out to a lead, and there are going to be runs by both teams. You've got to be able to hang in there when things are going against you. I thought we did a really good job of that tonight."
Bowles led Crawford County with 20 points, and Nickelson followed with 17. Dalton Nichols finished with 13 points for the Wolfpack, who connected on 20 of 44 field-goal attempts (45 percent) and 19 of 27 free throws. Crawford County had just six turnovers in 32 minutes. Besides the 400th win for Brown, the Wolfpack kept their record spotless at 6-0.
"To be honest, I can't say that I expected us to be 6-0, but I will say during the off-season we had many come up and ask us how we're going to be," Bowles said. "We've played together our whole lives, and we knew we could do this. We just weren't sure if we were going to."
"We've got four or five guys right now around double figures for an average, but we've had about eight guys hit threes," Brown said. "That makes us tough to scout and it makes us tough to play against, and it gives all our guys some confidence that they're contributing to the team. That's what everybody wants."
Jace Gordon led the Jeeps (3-2) with 17 points, and Huebner followed with 16, including 12 on four threes. Northeast Dubois connected on 19 of 37 field-goal attempts (51 percent) and 7 of 11 free throws. The Jeeps had 20 turnovers.
"Crawford County has got a really nice basketball team, and I thought they executed a lot better than what we did," Friedman said. "Crawford plays pretty good defense, but it seemed like we had some mental lapses with the basketball there in the second half, too."
Brown will be officially honored for his 400th win before the Wolfpack's game against Paoli at the end of the regular season.
"If you get to this number, then that means you've had some really good players play for you, and I've been fortunate to do that," he said. "I have some good ones now. It's good to get there just because it takes a little pressure off and they don't have to worry about it. More than anything, it's six out of six to start the season. That's the biggest thing for us. We continue to play well and get a little better, and we'll have to."