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Crawford County’s Parker Hudson and Paoli’s Aaron Key both try to claim ownership of this loose ball in the first half of the Wolfpack’s 63-45 win. Photo by Wade Bell

Crawford shears Rams for PLAC title

March 02, 2011
The Crawford County boys' basketball team accomplished one of its main goals Friday night when it handily disposed of the Paoli Rams in the team's final game before this week's sectional. The Wolfpack sheared the Rams, 63-45, to give them sole possession of the Patoka Lake Athletic Conference championship as they finished a perfect 6-0 in conference play.

"I told (the players) yesterday in practice we're playing for the conference championship," Crawford County coach Mike Brown said. "We're playing the team that's in last place, but that doesn't matter. You're playing for the conference championship. You haven't won one in 10 years. You have a chance to go on the road to one of your rivals and win it on their floor. I think our kids felt that way. I don't think they took it for granted."

That may have been on the Wolfpack's mind a little too much as Crawford County missed its first four shots. Paoli, however, only connected on one of its first five. The Wolfpack then punched in five of their next six attempts to take an 18-6 lead after one quarter.

"We missed some shots early that were pretty good shots," Brown said. "I think it frustrated us a little bit. Once we scored and got a few to fall, I think we relaxed and realized, if we just play the way we're capable of playing, we're going to be OK."

Crawford County began the second period with a 16-3 run to lead 34-9. Paoli, however, finished the period with a 7-1 burst and regained some of its game, but Crawford County still took a 35-16 lead to the locker room at halftime.

"I think our defense got us going and got us some easy shots," Brown said. "What really got us going was not necessarily our fast-break points but our fast breaks that ended up in kick-outs for three's. We did a really good job when they doubled us, and, when they got back and sunk inside, we did a great job of moving the ball and using the extra pass. We didn't hit every three, but we had open ones. (Alex) Baker knocked a couple down; great shot, wide open, in rhythm, that's what you shoot for."

Paoli continued its run early in the third period as Clay Burnette buried a three and Aaron Key scored inside to close the Rams' deficit to 35-21. Crawford County countered quickly with a 9-0 burst to lead 44-22.

Paoli still fought to remain in striking distance going on an 8-2 run to end the period, but the Rams were still down, 48-30. Paoli's hole was too deep, however, and, despite small singular gains, the Rams fell to the Wolfpack by 18 points.

Brown said that after a five-point loss to Northeast Dubois last Tuesday, his team bounced back the next day in practice and worked to fix the problems from its defeat to the Jeeps.

"We had a pretty good practice on Wednesday," he said. "We practiced in the morning yesterday (Thursday). We didn't pout around it a whole lot. We know what happened at Dubois. We went back and looked at the tape, and the open shots that we had that didn't fall, you couldn't put them on a page. You're going to have nights like that. Our defense let us down there."

Baker and Jordan Newkirk led Crawford County (16-5, 6-0 PLAC) with 14 points each. The Wolfpack connected on 24 of 52 field-goals attempts (46 percent) and 10 of 17 free throws. Crawford County had 14 turnovers.

"There have been times where, if we miss a shot early in the game, it's not as much tight as it is assuming it's going to go in," Brown said. "We don't follow through on things a lot of times, especially under the basket like we should early in the game. A lot of our stuff comes off short or we don't get it there."

Burnette led Paoli (2-18, 0-6 PLAC) with 24 points, and Key finished with 11. The Rams were 15 of 34 (44 percent) from the field and 11 of 18 from the charity line. Turnovers were a big problem for Paoli, who collected 22.

"We've been through a lot of wars," Brown said. "We play a tough schedule. This was our last one. We're glad it was for something. I think your last game of the season, when you can play for something, that makes it better. So, our focus was pretty good coming in here."

Brown said he would have liked to have had a closer game going into the first round of the Class 3A Sectional against Salem tonight (Wednesday), adding that defense will be a big key to the outcome.

"The first team to 50," he said. "I think, if it's a 70- or 80-point game, we're not going to be in the lead. If we can get ahead of them early and let them come to us as opposed having to come to them defensively, I think that would favor us a lot. But that's easier said than done."

"Keeping them off the boards, limiting their three-point shots and really helping around the paint on the twins (Matt and Andrew Steggeman)," Brown said. "They hurt us badly the first time (Salem defeated the Wolfpack, 70-56, on Jan. 8). We didn't get back into the lane as quickly as we needed to. I think that was probably a bigger factor in the game than anything else."

The game, at Salem, will tip around 7:30 p.m., following the North Harrison-Charlestown contest.

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