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Cougars hang on in wild finish

December 10, 2008
It was quiet enough you could hear the fingernails crashing to the floor as they fell from the spectators' agape mouth. Their eyes were watching Joe Bolin's shot with 42 seconds left slowly roll around on the back of the rim during North Harrison boys' basketball game against host Corydon Friday night. The ball finally rolled in and it proved to be the winning shot as the Cougars edged out a 44-43 win.

"I was just sitting there screaming at it to go in, hoping it would go in," said Bolin after the game. "It looked like it was going to get stuck for a minute."

North Harrison's Joe Bolin fires up the winning basket for the Cougars despite some defensive pressure by Corydon's Brian Baker. (Photo by Wade Bell)
"My fear was it was going to get stuck and it would be a jump ball and it would be in their possession," said North Harrison coach Chris Martin. "It was a foul anyway."

The Cougars had plenty of motivation coming into the game after last year's butt-kicking they took from the Panthers. A lot of full moons had also gone by since North Harrison could say they had beat their county and sectional rival.

"We've lost to them seven straight times, and we finally beat them," Bolin said. "Last year, they beat us 72-38 at our place and that was definitely some motivation for this game."

One thing evident in North Harrison's game was the Cougars patience and moving the ball as the game began. The Cougars worked the ball on the perimeter then into a better shooting range for medium jump shots. After the first eight minutes, North Harrison had an 11-8 lead.

The Cougars took just four shots in the second period, hitting three of them. North Harrison also made 4-of-6 free-throw attempts during the span. The Panthers put up 13 attempts from the field in the period but hit just six. There were five lead changes in the second period, and a free throw by T.J. Sanders left the game tied at 21-all at halftime.

"I think you have to approach them (Corydon) like you do a lot of other teams who aren't very physical," said Martin. "They're not big and physical but they're very aggressive defensively. We had to tell our kids 'patience, patience, patience.' They are very good at getting you into their game. We didn't want to get out of that by trying to do too much too quickly."

North Harrison hit three of its first four shots in the third period while Corydon missed its first four attempts. Alex Edward put North Harrison up by three, but Corydon's Seth Rennirt countered. Bolin swished a short jumper and the Cougar advantage was back to three with eight minutes left.

Dylan Janes began the fourth period with North Harrison's only 3-pointer of the game for a 36-30 Cougar lead. Edwards followed with two free throws, and Corydon found themselves with an 8-point deficit.

Corydon didn't stay down for long, as Brandon Dunaway swished a 3-ball and deuce to pull the Panthers back within three. Edwards scored inside, pushing the Cougar advantage back to five and they held that edge until Garett Ross and Rennirt converted off North Harrison turnovers to tie the game at 42-42 with 1:50 to go. North Harrison turned the ball over again, and Ross put Corydon on top by one, 43-42.

North Harrison took the ball inside on its next possession, and Bolin got in the paint for his shot. The ball slowed on the back of the rim plate almost stopping but finally rolled in, sending the Cougar bench and fans into a frenzy as the Cougars took a 44-43 lead with 41.8 seconds to go.

Corydon still had time to make something happen but turned the ball over with 7.6 to go. North Harrison used two time-outs then missed a free-throw attempt with 6.9 to go. Edwards forced a turnover in the final seconds, and the Cougars celebrated the 1-point win.

"Considering we were 0-5 at Christmas last year, it didn't matter who we beat, where we beat them or when we beat them, we've got one under our belt this year," said Martin. "We'll take it anyway we can get it."

"We knew we were up by one, and I wanted to hit the free throw to go up by two," said Bolin. "It rattled out on me. It put a whole lot more pressure on (us). We had to D-up going back down and make sure they didn't score."

"I thought our defense all night was solid," Martin said. "When we needed a stop, when we needed a possession, I thought everybody played well defensively and contributed. The last one was big, but I thought we had several during the night that were big as well."

Alex Edwards led the winners with 14 points, and Joe Bolin finished with 10. The Cougars (1-1) shot the ball well, hitting 16-of-31 field goals (51 percent) and 11-of-17 free throws. North Harrison had 16 turnovers.

"He's 6-foot-5 and sometimes we have to remind him of that," Martin said of Edwards. "Sometimes he plays 6-2 and sometimes he plays 5-11 but tonight I thought he played about 6-8. He was up in the air. He was aggressive."

Rennirt led Corydon with 14 points, and Ross had 12 for the game. Brandon Dunaway finished with 11 for the Panthers, who hit 17-of-41 field goals (41 percent) and 4-of-8 free throws. Corydon had 15 turnovers.

"We put on the board the other day, 'Where are we now?' Are we better than we were last year?" said Martin. "The kids last year played their butts off every night, and we're starting to see some of the results of the hard work they put in last year and in what we're trying to do this year. Are we there yet? No. We're far away but we're getting a little step closer all the time."

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