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Crawford County’s Alex Baker, center, and North Harrison’s Devin Southard, left, get tangled up as Baker tries to hang on to the ball in the first half of the Wolfpack’s 57-46 win. Photo by Wade Bell

Wolfpack pull away from Cougars, 57-46

February 10, 2010
It may have been cold and snowy outside the North Harrison gymnasium Fri-day night, but barns were burning inside as the host Cougars and Crawford County went back and forth in a tug of war before the Wolfpack pulled ahead in the last minute for a 57-46 win. In typical rivalry fashion, the game saw nine lead changes.

Crawford County vs. North Harrison
"These teams have played against each other since basketball was brought to this area," Crawford County coach Mike Brown said. "It will be that way 20 years from now. When you play teams you're close to, they're going to be knock-down drag-outs. If you expect anything different than that, then you're fooling yourself."

Crawford County coach Mike Brown
"You've got to hand it to Crawford County," North Harrison coach Greg Walters said. "They're a heck of a team and playing really well. They had a big win the other night against the (Class 3A) fourth-ranked team in the state (Southridge). They come into our place, and we give them a battle. We battled with them and almost beat them."

North Harrison coach Greg Walters
Five of those lead changes came in the first quarter which featured a shoot-out between North Harrison's Lincoln Jones and Crawford County's Alex Baker. Jones drilled two threes from the right wing, but Baker countered by swishing a three-ball, and the Wolfpack held on to a 12-10 edge. Steven Wiseman and Andrew Curl then connected on four straight free throws, and the Wolfpack held a 16-10 lead at the end of the period.

Jordan Newkirk pushed the Crawford County lead to eight in the second quarter, but North Harrison countered with a 9-0 run to take a 21-20 lead. The Wolfpack, however, answered with a 7-2 burst to lead 26-22, but Colin Book swished a three to cut the gap to one, 26-25, at halftime.

"We played about three possessions of zone early in the game when we gave up those threes in the corner down there," Brown said. "Then, we got in some foul trouble, so we played man because we matched up a little better. We wanted to go back to that zone. That's kind of become our better defense, and we just match up on them. If you're a 1-2-2, we're a 1-2-2. If you're a 2-3, we're a 2-3."

"We've been working on (Jones) being able to shoot from the perimeter," Walters said. "Tonight, he was able to knock them down. The pace there early got a little bit quicker than we would like it at, so we talked about that with the guys as we were able to slow the game back down and get the game where we wanted it. We were able to run some of our sets and get layups out of them. We had a few back doors and things like that."

Baker gave Crawford County a six-point edge three minutes into the third quarter, but Jones and Devin Southard scored to keep the Cougars within two, 35-33.

It wasn't until late in the fourth period when Crawford County finally got a stranglehold on the Cougars and pulled away to take home a 57-46 win.

"They made some big baskets to stay in the game," Brown said. "We had chances to stretch it out. They made plays. We had some foul trouble that kept us from playing our normal rotation, so we just had to kind of sit and wait. I thought that at about the four- or five-minute mark, when we got a little bit of breathing room, we battened down the hatches and played a lot better defense from that point on."

"We played well tonight," Walters said. "We just had a hard time finishing that one out. We got in foul trouble. Right now, our bench isn't as deep as theirs. They run about 10 deep, and we play seven or eight guys. Two of our guys who get a lot of rebounds for us were in foul trouble."

Baker led the Wolfpack with 19 points, including 15 on five threes. Newkirk finished with 12 points, and Parker Hudson poured in 11. Crawford County was 19 of 42 (45 percent) from the field and 13 of 25 from the stripe. The Wolfpack committed 11 turnovers.

"Alex is a guy you've got to keep track of all the time," Brown said of the senior. "Alex has the green light on the break, if he's open, to shoot the ball. A layup to me or you is a three-point shot to Alex if he's open. We want him to shoot if he's open."

Brown said Hudson continues to improve with each game.

"He did a great job tonight," the Crawford County coach said. "He didn't foul. I know he ended up with four, but most of them were hustle fouls. He made one great catch on a break-out in tight quarters and made the basket. Those are the little skill things he can do that we're glad he's got."

Jones led North Harrison with 12 points. The Cougars were 18 of 42 (43 percent) from the field and 7 of 12 at the charity stripe. North Harrison also kept its turnover rate down, committing 13.

"We got ourselves right there in a position, when there were two minutes to go, we were down three at the foul line and missed," Walters said. "That kind of told the story here where four or five plays throughout the game that we made where we got a little quick or lost the handle on the ball and made some plays we wished we could have had back."

"They did a nice job," Brown said of the Cougars. "They ran guys in and out of our zone, and I thought late in the game we did a great job following them and kind of confusing them some. There were some possessions there where they had trouble finding the shot they wanted because we were doing a good job rotating and pressuring the ball without giving up free shots or fouls."

"The guys fought hard and played well," Walters said. "There's just a play or two they made that we weren't able to make tonight."

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