February 27, 2019The Patoka Lake Athletic Conference championship came down to the last game of the regular season Friday night between the Crawford County Wolfpack and the host Paoli Rams, with both teams coming into the game with identical 5-0 conference records. What Crawford County didn't count on was having one of its worst shooting games of the season, with Paoli getting a seven-point win and claiming the conference title.
"We wanted to see how they would play us and how aggressive their defense was going to be, and we found that out," Crawford County coach Jerry Hanger said. "We were not able to run some things tonight that we've been successful with other teams. Obviously, we'll go back and watch the film and see how they defended us, and it gives us an opportunity to work on that stuff. Really, it was a pretty good night. We at least get to go back and look at some of the things that were shortfalls for us."
Paoli's Ashton Minton (32) throws the ball to a teammate as he is surrounded by Crawford County's Nick Stroud, from left, Noah Adams and Preston Coleman. Photos By Wade Bell
Crawford County's shooting problems began at the beginning of the game, as the Wolfpack missed their first two shots under the basket. Trevor Harvey finally converted off a Paoli turnover, and the Wolfpack was on the board first.
Crawford County then went into a drought, misfiring on its next 12 attempts and finished the period 2-for-17 from the field, but the Wolfpack got a little help from the free-throw line, hitting five. Paoli, meanwhile, was struggling just handling the ball with five quick turnovers. The Rams shot the ball much better, however, hitting six of 12 attempts, and took a 19-9 lead
Brett Bosley scored the first basket of the second quarter to give the Rams a 21-9 lead, but Crawford County quickly countered with an 8-3 burst to close the gap to seven, 24-17.
The period turned into one of runs. Paoli responded for a 6-0 burst, but Crawford County finished with a 7-2 burst, and the Rams took a 32-24 lead to the locker room at the break.
"We felt like we were in pretty good shape at halftime down only eight," Hanger said. "It wasn't one of our best games of the year, bar none. Paoli was the aggressor tonight.
"The game was probably decided within the first five minutes. We had six shots within two feet that we didn't make. If we would have hit half of those shots, seeing the ball go through the net is very important for your confidence. Not only does it affect your offense, but it affects your defense, also. We were missing those bunnies on the inside, and we just got off to a poor start."
The two teams traded points to begin the second half, but Mason Buchanan drilled a 3-pointer to put Paoli in the lead by nine. A 3 by Christian Carlton later pulled Crawford County to within six, but the Rams continued counter-offensives. Paoli finished with a 5-0 burst and held a 48-37 advantage with one quarter to go.
"It was just hard to overcome," Hanger said. "I felt like we were gradually getting better. We were only down eight at halftime, and I felt like, 'Wow! We could cut down in half in the third quarter and only be down four or five.' We got it down to six."
Crawford County's Noah Adams, center, falls backwards as he tries to get a shot over Paoli's Jordan Clark, left, and Mason Buchanan in the second half.
The fourth quarter seemed like it lasted for hours. Crawford County got the first three points, but Ty Lawson countered with a deuce-and-one for the Rams. The next few minutes saw the two teams trade paint with Paoli keeping its advantage just outside double digits, leading 64-49 following a free throw by Buchanan.
Crawford County then made a charge for one last run, scoring the next seven points to close the gap to eight. Free throws, however, kept Paoli in the black, while Crawford County ran out of clock, with the Rams getting the 67-60 win.
"We missed some relatively easy shots at the end of the second half," Hanger said. "It just wasn't our night. Paoli deserves all the credit. They played better ball than we did."
Carlton led the Wolfpack with 13 points, and Wyatt Allinger followed with 12. Crawford County hit just 16 of 54 field goal attempts (30 percent) and 26 of 40 free throws. The Wolfpack had 18 turnovers for the night.
Ashton Minton led the Rams with 19 points, while Bosley finished with 11. Lawson added 10 points for the Rams, who hit 19 of 46 shots (41 percent) from the field and 20 of 28 free throws, while committing 20 turnovers.
"I felt like we were still moving along and still doing a pretty good job, but Paoli, credit them," Hanger said. "They out-hustled us. They got all the loose balls it seemed like. We missed some free throws."
Now, the records go out of the window with this week's Class 2A Sectional 46 at Crawford County. The Wolfpack faced Eastern (Pekin) last night (Tuesday) and, if they were successful (the game was after press deadline), will have to play Austin before thinking about Paoli again, with the Rams having a little tougher route, having to get through Henryville first and then either Providence or Clarksville.
"We hope we play them again, and I think we're going to play them again," the Crawford County coach said. "I really do. I feel like we have an opportunity to hang another banner in the gym.
"We've got a good group of athletes that play hard. I'm not faulting my (players') effort. I just didn't think we played well. Sometimes I didn't think I was coaching very well. There was just things that happened tonight that we don't think are going to happen next week. We'll play better next week."
Crawford County 9 15 13 23 - 60
Paoli 19 13 16 19 - 67
Crawford County - Arnold 2, Harvey 7, Coleman 9, Sturgeon 6, Allinger 12, Carlton 13, Adams 6, Stroud 5
Paoli - Bosley 11, Clark 5, Lawson 10, Busick 2, Bobbit 5, Minton 19, Buchanan 7, Sullivan 8
3-pointers - Harvey, Carlton 2, Bosley, Clark, Lawson, Buchanan 2, Sullivan 2