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Crawford wins rumble with Salem

January 13, 2010
In a back-and-forth game that saw 11 lead changes, the Crawford County Wolfpack held off the visiting Salem Lions in a royal rumble Saturday night after a long, 20-day break. Both teams needed the win, and both teams pulled out all the stops to get it.

Crawford County vs. Salem
"If you saw nothing else, both teams went after it pretty hard because I think we both needed one," Crawford County coach Mike Brown said. "You don't want to come back after Christmas and (be) off this long and lose. It just messes up your mental state of mind going into the second half of your season. You've got to get a win."

The swap meet began early with six lead changes in the first quarter and Salem holding an 18-17 lead after the first eight minutes.

Crawford County’s Jordan Newkirk had a game-high 26 points for the Wolfpack, including this two-hand-slam in the first quarter. Photo by Wade Bell
In the second period, Salem pushed its edge to four, 22-18, but that closed quickly as Jordan Newkirk sank a Crawford County three-ball. Matt Steggeman quickly countered for the Lions, but Andrew Curl answered the call with another Wolfpack three.

Newkirk pushed Crawford County in front with a pair of freebies, and Alex Baker swished his third three of the half for a 29-25 advantage. Steggeman hit from downtown again. Taylor Banks then added a free throw to tie the game at 29. Newkirk got another chance from the charity stripe and sank a pair to send Crawford County to the halftime locker room with a 31-29 edge.

"We started off and missed four free throws to start the game," Brown said. "Luckily for us, Baker knocked some threes down. Jordan hit one early. We missed a lot of things inside. We had a lot of kids almost brain dead.

"All we talked about at the end of the first quarter and halftime is just the basic things we always run. We had kids out of position. We had guys making cuts at the wrong time. We felt like there were some openings we could take advantage of, but I think a lot of that is just being off."

Parker Hudson and Newkirk gave Crawford County a 35-29 lead to begin the second half, but Rhett Huffaker quickly negated that with seven unanswered points, giving Salem a 36-35 lead. Kyle England added to that scoring inside, but Newkirk put a pair of deuces down to push the Wolfpack in front again. Huffaker, however, swished another three, and Salem held a 41-39 lead with one quarter left.

"The third quarter, there's going to be a lot of chances for other guys to step up," Brown said. "Parker Hudson played his best game, by far. I thought he really battled and did a nice job. We need that from him because his height really changed some shots tonight that he didn't block. He got some big, big rebounds. We've got to have that from him."

Salem pushed its lead to six, 47-41, with just over six minutes to go in the fourth quarter. Tensions then became a little stressed as Crawford County tried to fight back and Salem called timeout with 5:38 to go.

"I asked them in the timeout, 'When are we going to stand up?' " Brown said. " 'When are we going to stand up and make some plays and push guys out of the way to get to the ball and dive on a loose ball? When is that going to be us? After that, our kids kind of rallied together there.' "

Crawford County responded by scoring the next 11 points for a 52-47 lead. Nate Busick stopped the Lion drought as he scored inside, but Curl and Baker scored the final points, as the Wolfpack took the 54-49 win.

"In a game like this, you've got to make some big stands late," Brown said. "You've got to protect the ball and get on the boards, which I thought we did a pretty good job of. We made enough free throws to keep it a two-possession game. Late, when we needed to get the ball in and protect it, waiting to get fouled, I thought we did a pretty good job."

"We're in the same boat everybody else is," he said. "I'm sure there were a lot of ragged games played this weekend. It's good to get them out of your system, and it's good to get a win. It very easily could have been a loss. So, we're not unhappy about it by any means."

Newkirk used 11-of-14 shooting from the free-throw line to lead all scorers with 26 points. Baker followed with 11 points, including nine in the first half. Crawford County was 16 of 35 (45 percent) from the field and 15 of 27 from the charity stripe. The Wolfpack finished with 18 turnovers.

"When Newkirk is getting things done inside, Baker will be open some because it's very hard to stop both as far as where they attack the basket," Brown said. "Newkirk was getting in the lane some. We weren't always scoring out of it, but we were able to kick it out some to Baker because he was wide open. He carried us a little there early."

"We didn't shoot free throws very well," he said. "I thought we made some good defensive stands, and I thought we rebounded pretty well. It went from them doing that to us doing that. We started diving on some loose balls and suddenly it's tipped out and we get layups."

Huffaker led Salem with 18 points. The Lions hit 16 of 41 (39 percent) field goals and turned the ball over 18 times. Salem canned 8 of 12 free throws.

"We've not been in a lot of games," Brown said. "This is our eighth, but I think out of the eight games we've only had two or three where we had a situation with two minutes to go we're up one or two … This is good experience for us, especially in the fact that it wasn't a conference game.

"Sometimes you just have to gut them out and, when you do, then you sleep well this weekend and you come in and have a good week of practice and you go back to war this weekend. This was a big one, and we needed to to get this one. Our kids did a great job of just grinding one out."

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