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North Harrison's Jordan Byrne just barely beats the clock with this shot over Crawford County's Andrew Curl to give the Cougars a 60-58 come-from-behind win over the Wolfpack. (Photos by Wade Bell)

Byrne buzzer-beater burns Wolfpack

February 06, 2008
North Harrison's Cardiac Cougars have been giving their fans plenty to have arrhythmias about in all of their wins. The first win came in overtime, the second in double overtime, and the third in a five-OT marathon. Then, on Friday night, hearts were really thumping as senior Jordan Byrne drilled a last-second shot to beat visiting Crawford County, 60-58.

"I don't know how much longer I can take this," North Harrison coach Chris Martin joked after the Cougars' win. "I'm exhausted, but our kids just keep coming and keep playing hard. Once we figured it out tonight we could not back down to them, you saw what we can do."

"It wasn't for a lack of effort," a disappointed Crawford coach Mike Brown said. "I thought we really tried hard. I thought we had kids that really played together, and it's disappointing for them because they probably deserved to win this one."

The first half belonged to the Wolfpack, who sprinted to a 9-1 lead. North Harrison jumped back into the fray with a 7-4 response to close within four, 13-9, after one quarter.

Crawford County guard Andrew Curl, right, looks for a teammate as he tries to keep the ball away from North Harrison's Cody Johnson in the first half. The Cougars rallied from a 19-point deficit to get a 60-58 win.
Dustin Bowling and Ean Edwards pushed the Crawford lead to 18-9 in the first minute and a half of the second quarter. The next few minutes saw both teams trade free throws until Spencer Griswold scored inside for a 25-13 Wolfpack advantage.

North Harrison gained only one of those back before the break, and Crawford held a 28-17 lead at halftime.

"We were down a man tonight that really could have helped us some," Brown said of Bo Benham, who has been out with a knee injury but is expected back on the practice floor tomorrow. "But we had enough guys to win the game.

"When you go on the road, you've got to be eight or 10 points better, because they're going to hit the shots you're not late and they're going to make the free throws you're going to miss. They're comfortable where they're at."

Crawford went on an 11-3 run to take a 39-20 lead less than three minutes into the third period. North Harrison, however, didn't waste time getting back in the mix as Jim Bob Schuler got a pair of free throws and a three-ball. Chad Eveslage added to the run with a deuce to pull the Cougars within 12, 39-27.

"When they came into the locker room at halftime, I think everyone in there chewed on them a little bit," Martin said. "All the coaches, I think the trainer got on them, I think the statistician got on them. I think everyone had a little bit of a round of telling them they were backing down from the pressure, and finally with about 17 minutes to go, we decided we were going to play a little basketball."

Daniel Allen buried a Crawford three for a 42-27 Wolfpack lead. The remainder of the third quarter, however, belonged to the Cougars, who finished with a 9-0 run and cut their deficit to just six, 42-36.

"We decided to compete," Martin said. "We've talked all week about how physical they were. … We were the aggressor. We started drawing a few fouls being aggressive to the basket, dribble drive, penetrate and kick, trying to find the next shooter."

North Harrison pulled within four early in the fourth, but Andrew Curl fired up a three for a 47-40 Crawford edge. Cody Johnson later pulled the Cougars within four after driving the lane.

Ryan Griffith gave Crawford two free throws for a six-point lead, but Joe Bolin and T.J. Sanders gave the Cougars a big lift with back-to-back triples to tie the game at 55 with two minutes left.

Free throws by Curl kept Crawford out in front, but with 1:05 left Sanders scored inside for a 58-58 tie. Crawford misfired on a three, but North Harrison rushed two shots, then called timeout with 1.1 seconds to go.

Following two Cougar timeouts, David Geswein took the ball out of bounds and looked for an open man. Just before getting a five-second count, he found Jordan Byrne.

Byrne got up above Curl and launched a 15-footer just before the buzzer sounded. The ball found nothing but net and the Cougars celebrated their fourth win of the season, 60-58.

"We drew it up for Jim Bob and Cody to be on the strong side," Martin said. "We put Joe (Bolin) flashing to the corner, and Jordan was just going to follow in. If we didn't have anything, we were going to have a lob play, and Jordan is our best jumper. Was anyone a bigger option more than anybody else? We were looking for the first available look. We had Cody and Jim Bob on the outside, and David made a great pass to get it up in the air to Jordan."

"I do not like to switch any screens late because you lose people too quickly," Brown said. "We did not want to give the lob up inside to Schuler. We wanted to make sure we had a hand up on the shot. I would think (Byrne) was their last option. I thought we stopped inside and we covered outside on the threes. We got through one screen real well. They threw it in at about the four count, and he threw one up with us in front of him and made it."

Schuler led the winners (4-13) with 22 points, and Sanders followed with 11. North Harrison was just 18 of 52 (34 percent) from the field and connected on 20 of 33 free throws. The Cougars finished with just four turnovers.

"When you have a coaching change, there's going to be change," Martin said. "It doesn't matter who it is, college level, NBA level, high school level, it's a change. There's going to be offensive changes, defensive changes. We came in and put a lot of new stuff in, and they looked at us the first couple of weeks as if they didn't know what planet we were from.

"In the last month, we've begun to see ball movement, rotations, penetrations, kicks and jump shots that are good shots rather than just firing the first three we get. You see the results when you move the ball and we rotate bodies and be aggressive."

Curl led the Wolfpack (5-10) with 16 points, and Griffith came off the bench for 11. Crawford hit 15 of 32 field goals (46 percent) and 21 of 33 free throws. The Wolfpack had committed turnovers.

"He's a sophomore playing against senior guards," Brown said of Curl. "When he gets wore down, I thought Evan Crecelius did a very good job tonight coming in and spelling him some. Evan played two or three positions for us. It was probably his best game. Andrew only gets in trouble when he gets tired, when he gets fatigued, and he's not very big. I thought he did a lot of really good things tonight."

Martin hopes to see his team continue to improve while Brown still looks for answers.

"The kids are enjoying it, and if we can continue to move them in the right direction and keep their heads on straight, maybe we can be a factor (in the sectional)," the Cougar coach said. "We have to continue to get better. We're not in a class with Charlestown and Salem yet, but if they come here and we keep it close, our kids believe they can win one close."

"We've just got to keep going," Brown said, adding he told his team how the New York Giants weren't thought to be a good team but won several games in a row and advanced to the Super Bowl.

"What we've got to do is stick our nose in there and keep playing."

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