January 23, 2013It had been almost one month since the North Harrison boys' basketball team had suited up in the home locker room and hit the court in Ramsey.
The return home was welcomed for the Cougars, who shot above 50 percent from the field, en route to an 83-74 victory over Lanesville Friday night. Despite the nine-point loss, the Eagles made a serious fourth-quarter charge, but crept no closer than three points.
"Lanesville is a real good team, and we're proud of this one," North Harrison coach Greg Walters said. "I wish we would have defended better down the stretch. We'll take it against good teams. The main thing is, we shot the ball really well."
It was a good welcome home for the Cougars, who went 4-1 on a five-game road swing to improve their record to 8-4.
"We would have liked to have gotten all five, but we were excited to get four of five on the road. Four were back-to-back nights on the road, which can be tough. We were real proud of that road trip," Walters said.
Lanesville led 6-4, thanks to a three-point play from Justin Miller. From that point forward in the opening quarter, North Harrison did damage from long range. Joseph Hinton put in a long ball to give the Cougars the edge for good.
The barrage of North Harrison outside shots continued to fall through the twine when Austin Nolot drained three straight. His streak launched the Cougar student section to chant "hot shot Nolot" as the junior retreated to the defensive end.
"He has had a big month," Walters said of Nolot, who finished with a season-best 21 points. "He played well at Austin and Scottsburg then shot well tonight."
Lanesville was able to keep pace with the Cougars while the shots fell for North Harrison. The Cougars would lead 22-17 at the end of the opening quarter. The lead would grow to 37-30 by half. Nolot added another trey, along with one from Cory Smith.
With a size advantage in the paint, Miller scored 11 of his 19 points in the first half.
"(North Harrison) does some good things," Lanesville coach Mikel Miller said. "We got beat out front a few times, and that opens things for their style of play. We scrambled a few times, trying to cover up. They knocked down big shots when they needed to."
Three additional Cougars reached double-figure scoring to go with Nolot: Tyler Bement with 20, Hinton with 15 and Smith with 15.
Lanesville managed to cut the North Harrison lead to three on one occasion in each the third and forth quarters. Alex Ansman scored 19 off the bench for the Eagles, including a drive that cut the margin to 43-40 in the third. North Harrison fired back with a 9-0 run, backed by seven from Smith.
In a fast-paced final quarter, Matthew Husband converted a three-point play to cut the North Harrison lead that grew to 15 at one point back to three, 65-62. Dalton Fessel, however, scored seven of his nine points in the final 4:30 to help fend off the Eagles.
"Not until the fourth quarter did I feel like we started to play our game," Miller said. "We were out of kilter for the first quarter on. We didn't really get going until the fourth. We saw some bits of pieces, but didn't sustain it."
The run of solid play by the Cougars is contributed to several things.
"We've shared the basketball to get open looks," Walters said. "The big thing is we are getting to the basket for points in the paint. Tonight, we made a lot of jumpers, but lately we've finished well inside. During this stretch, we've been rebounding even with teams. We've kept our turnovers down."
Bement finished with eight rebounds and seven assists while Hinton had similar numbers of six and seven, respectively. Nolot made six of nine shots, helping the Cougars shoot 54 percent from the field.
"We like to play drive-and-kick," Walters said. "They started out in a zone to take our drive away, but we were able to get the ball to the corners to get some open looks. Those are shots we practice on a daily basis."
Lanesville was no slouch from the field, as well, shooting 56 percent. Kevin Zollman closed with six points, but contributed six rebounds and five assists despite playing through foul trouble. Jack Ferree finished with 10 points, while Jason Harmon and Husband had eight each.
"Once we got into our press, I think it caused some problems," Miller said. "I should have gone to it more of our denial earlier in the first half. It may have sparked us a little quicker."
The Cougars made it seven wins in their last eight chances Saturday with a 57-32 romp over winless Salem in the Mid-Southern Conference. Smith paced the winners with 24 points.
North Harrison will play a pair of games this weekend, starting off at West Washington on Friday (7:30 p.m.) followed by hosting homecoming Saturday against Madison (7:30).