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Crawford County center Johnny Schwartz eyes the basket before putting up the final point of the game to give the Wolfpack a 59-57 tournament title win over Heritage Hills. Photos by Wade Bell

Wolfpack stop Patriots, win tourney

Perry-Spencer Holiday Championship

January 11, 2012
After beating rivals Perry Central and Corydon Central in their first two games of the Perry-Spencer Holiday Tournament, Crawford County held off a tough and determined Patriot team from Heritage Hills for a 59-57 championship win on Dec. 30. The Patriots proved to be the Wolfpack's toughest opponent of the season, threatening to put the first blemish on their perfect record.

"I'm just really proud of our kids," Crawford County coach Mike Brown said. "They really gutted it out, and anytime you win any kind of a tournament, let alone an eight-team tournament, things have got to go your way, but you've got to help them go your way. I thought our kids were kind of relentless there at the end, in attacking the basket and doing everything they were capable of doing."

Heritage Hills had its turbos turned up to full power, matching every move the Wolfpack made and then some. Both teams shared the lead at some point in the first period and played to a 14-all tie. One thing working in the Patriots' favor was their quickness to the boards.

Crawford County celebrates a championship in the Perry-Spencer Holiday Tournament after defeating Heritage Hills 59-57. “Winning it gives us even more confidence and let’s us know we can win three in a week against three pretty good teams,” said coach Mike Brown, whose team also beat Perry Central and Corydon Central.
"We hadn't found anybody till tonight that was quicker to the boards than us," Brown said. "Our strength has been we're faster to the ball than you are. Whether we can out-jump you or not doesn't matter. They were equal to us in jumping ability, and they were equal to us in getting to the board. We could not keep all of them off of there."

Crawford County gapped the Patriots by six early in the second period, but Heritage Hills quickly charged back to tie at 21. Jake Fella and Devon Merder gave the Patriots a 31-27 advantage, but, in the final seconds, Jordan Nickelson and Isaac Bowles drilled back-to-back threes to give the Wolfpack a 33-31 edge at halftime.

"If you're going to beat a team that's good and that's on a roll like you are and equal to you at every position athletically, then you've got to make some big plays," Brown said. "You've got to hope things fall your way."

The third period was tight, with the biggest lead being 36-33 to Heritage Hills. The Patriots held a slight advantage through the period until Chase Broughton drilled a long three with two seconds on the clock.

"It just seemed like everybody we put in did something that really helped us out. That's his job," Brown said of Broughton. "One thing he can do, he can come in off the bench and, if his feet are set, he's going to knock it down, and, as soon as he let it loose, I knew it had a pretty good chance."

The game looked like it was going to take a turn for the worst for the Wolfpack in the fourth period as Heritage Hills used an 8-0 run to gain a 52-45 advantage midway through the period. Crawford County, however, charged back. Johnny Schwartz and Nickelson both scored inside. Heritage Hills' Damon Wahl and Bowles traded threes, then Schwartz and Nickelson both scored again to cut Crawford County's deficit to one, 57-56.

With less than a minute to go, Schwartz scored inside following a Patriots miss at the charity stripe, and Crawford County led 58-57.

Heritage Hills called time-out but missed on both on a three-pointer and a deuce inside. Schwartz was fouled on the rebound with 5.1 seconds left and hit one of two for a 59-57 Crawford County lead.

Following time-outs by both teams, Heritage Hills got the ball to the left corner for a three-pointer, but the ball went over the basket, preserving Crawford County's tourney championship.

"We were really worried there at the end when they had the ball for the last shot," Brown said. "They've got shooters and they run some great man-to-man stuff that's hard to defend. We decided to go half-court trap just so they couldn't run something special, thinking that, if they did score, at least we would have time then on a quick basket to get the ball back and have a last shot. We survived a long shot down there that was open."

Nickelson led Crawford County with 17 points, and Eric Harned had 16. The Wolfpack hit 21 of 44 field-goal attempts (48 percent) but just 3 of 7 free throws. Crawford County had 13 turnovers.

"The last four minutes, when we were down seven, we just scrambled like crazy for the loose balls and rebounds that were big ones," Brown said. "That was probably the key to the game. … We dug down. Eric Harned had a couple of huge rebounds. Even the ones he couldn't get his hands on he tipped to people that could. I just thought we showed incredible guts there toward the end."

Devon Wahl finished with 12 points for the Patriots, and Jack Woolems and Damon Wahl each had 10. Heritage Hills hit 24 of 55 field-goal attempts (44 percent) and 4 of 8 from the stripe. The Patriots also committed 13 turnovers.

Brown compared the tournament to a sectional week and said this will help prepare his team for the postseason.

"It's three games in a week," he said. "You're in the sectional final. Win, lose or draw tonight, we're going to be better for it, because, down the line, we're going to face this again. If you've been through it and you survive, it gives you confidence going on to the next one. Winning it gives us even more confidence and let's us know we can win three in a week against three pretty good teams."


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