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Paoli proves Ram tough in 78-59 win over Wolfpack

February 27, 2008
The Class 21 14th-ranked Paoli Rams used a third quarter power surge to blitz the host Crawford County Wolfpack, 78-59, in both teams' final regular season game before this week's sectional tournament. It was a game where Crawford not only had to go against an experienced team but also a master coach in legend Joe Hinton.

Crawford County junior Evan Crecelius, left, peers underneath Paoli's Drew White as he goes to the baseline in the second half. (Photos by Wade Bell)
"I thought it was fun," Crawford coach Mike Brown said. "He adjusted as it went. We adjusted as we went. The problem for us is, when we adjusted, our guys didn't catch on as quick because we haven't had as much time with our team as he has. They came out and made good adjustments.

"We've traded about eight games (films) with each other. It's kind of been a running joke. My son goes to Paoli and plays on the JV, and we've been running tapes back and forth through him to help each other out," he continued.

"We know as much about each other as a lot of teams. Every time they called something out, we called something and vice versa. I think what happens, when you do that, is you've got to be able to adjust and change on the fly. The more experience you have, the better chance you have of doing that well."

The first half, with six lead changes in the first quarter, was like two boxers going at each other. Crawford led 11-10 after a Ryan Griffith basket, but the Rams finally got some grip and punched in eight straight points for an 18-11 advantage after one quarter.

Both teams played evenly again in the second quarter, but this time for the entire eight minutes. Paoli took its lead to 26-13, but the Wolfpack stayed in the fight. Thomas Springer swished a three and Drew White got a deuce to give the Rams a 31-16 advantage midway through the quarter.

This time Crawford caught a foothold, with Bo Benham getting two inside and Andrew Curl drilling a three-ball. Spencer Griswold got three free throws, and Benham capped off the 10-2 run with a deuce in the paint, as Crawford went into the halftime locker room down just seven, 33-26.

"We did a pretty good job at times with the things we'd walked through," Brown said. "The longer you have them learning what you want to do, it's easier to jump up and call something out and everybody gets in it. We had a few times tonight where we tried to change in midstream and had one guy out of place. Against a team that shoots the ball as well as they do it only takes one guy."

"Probably our mistake was trying to get back and change defenses some," Brown said. "They started to catch on to what we were doing, and when we changed defenses, we did not get to where we needed to be quickly enough."

Donnie Kee swished a pair of singles from the stripe just under a minute into the third quarter, but Benham countered with a three to pull the Wolfpack within six, 35-29. Mike Harkness scored inside and Logan Laswell got two Paoli free throws for a 39-29 Ram advantage, but Evan Crecelius drilled a three that cut the Crawford deficit to seven.

Then came the back-breaker of the game as Kee drilled a three to start a 12-2 run for a 51-34 Ram lead. Dustin Bowling got two of those back, but White scored inside and then Laswell and Spinger each got threes. Laswell added two free throws to the offensive as the Ram advantage ballooned to 61-36.

Crawford County's Andrew Curl, center, gets this steal when he breaks through Paoli's Thomas Springer, left, and Drew White in the first half.
Jonathon Bowles negated the Laswell singles with a pair with seven seconds left, but the Rams still enjoyed a 61-38 advantage with eight minutes to go.

"The second half, we went through a spell where we didn't shoot the ball well," said Brown, whose team was just 4 of 12 from the field in the period. "We lost Donnie Kee four or five times. He's one of the guys we played man-to-man on the first half. We played man-to-man on White, Laswell and Kee for the first half and zoned the two big guys and didn't do too bad with that. For whatever reason, we lost him in transition a couple of times. We didn't get back on defense and find him."

The Rams pushed their lead to 71-43 in the fourth quarter, but Crawford kept fighting. Daniel Allen found a three-ball to pull the Crawford deficit back to 20, 75-55.

The Wolfpack had one last burst in the final two minutes to cut their deficit to a more respectable 19, 78-59, by the end of the game.

"We're in game 20 and we're 5-15, and our guys are absolutely busting their rear ends to the buzzer, which is one thing we wanted to get accomplished this year," Brown said. "It doesn't show for much now, but at the same time it doesn't take common sense to see.

"They (Rams) played six seniors with a lot of experience. We played three, one of which has some experience. The rest of ours were juniors and sophomores and even freshmen. I thought (Jordan) Newkirk played well tonight for a freshman in a game like this."

Benham led the Wolfpack (4-16) in his final home game with 13 points, and Allen poured in 12 points on four threes. Crawford shot just 38 percent from the field on 21 of 55 shooting. The Wolfpack hit just 10 of 22 free throws, but kept the turnovers down to 11.

"It sounds crazy when you lose by 19 or 20 points," Browns aid, "but in the third quarter, and even in the fourth quarter some, when we started to cut it down, we were a couple of possessions of it being a 12- or 14-point game. We can handle that. Five or six minutes to go, and we're in the bonus. But every time we got to that point, we had a couple of missed layups.

"We didn't shoot (at the foul line) well enough to keep us in the game. We needed every single one of those foul shots, because they're a high scoring team. For us to play with them, or beat them, we have to score at every opportunity. … When you get on the foul line and you shoot 50 percent, you've got to score more points than that."

Kee had a big night for the Rams (16-4), hitting five threes and connecting for 27 points. Laswell finished with 15 points, and Harkness had 13. White added 10 for the Rams, who were 30 of 52 (57 percent) from the field and 10 of 15 from the charity stripe. Paoli had just nine turnovers.

Crawford had the luck of the draw in this week's sectional draw, getting Friday night's bye round. Brown said his team, if things fall right, could pull the surprise of the tourney.

"I've had teams that were favorites coming out of that Tuesday night game and you're somehow concerned that you don't overlook somebody on Friday night," Brown said. "That's a challenge. We're hoping they do overlook us some. We've played two or three quarters with everybody good. We've had five or six minutes in games that have hurt us. We had Salem here to a four-point game with a couple of minutes left in the third quarter. We know we can play with those guys for stretches. All we have to do is get it done for 32 minutes."

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