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Martin lifts Cougars in final seconds

January 30, 2013
A battered and ill North Harrison boys' basketball team put its pain behind it in Saturday night's homecoming game against Madison for a 73-70 win. John Martin came up big with two steals and a pair of free throws in the final 10 seconds to secure the win.

"That was probably our biggest win of the year," North Harrison coach Greg Walters said. "The flu got us again. I think we have three sprained ankles. The guys are just toughing it out, and I'm real proud of them. (Austin) Nolot was really sick and he gave it his best effort but couldn't play the second half. The guys were gutting it out and continuing to battle."

North Harrison’s John Martin lofts the ball in the air after stealing it in the final seconds to give the Cougars a 73-70 win over visiting Madison. Photos by Wade Bell
There were six lead changes in the first quarter, with neither team leading by more than two until Cory Smith buried a three that gave the Cougars a four-point edge. That didn't last long, however, as Nick Macon sank a three for Madison, and North Harrison led by one, 19-18, at the end of the period.

The second quarter was more of the same, with neither team getting a hold on the situation. The biggest lead was held by Madison at 29-26 after a Tanner Sauley three-ball.

With Madison leading by two late in the period, Smith sank a three for a 37-36 Cougar edge. Macon, however, cashed in a pair of freebies for a 38-37 Madison lead at halftime.

The Cougars had some hot hands in the first half, hitting at a 64-percent clip on 16-of-25 shooting.

"We've been shooting the ball well at home," Walters said. "We continued that. … Coming in tonight, we've got three guys in double-figures scoring and a fourth guy with 9.5 points, so almost four guys in double figures. We like to push the ball and attack the basket and get good looks from three-point and knock those down. So, offensively, we were trying to do that."

There were six lead changes in the first four minutes of the third period.

Smith tied the game with 1:48 left in the period. Macon then got a deuce-and-one for a 55-51 Madison lead. Martin scored inside to cut the gap to two.

With just three seconds left, Ryan Thurston launched a shot from half-court, which bottomed out the net, giving the Cubs a 58-53 lead with eight minutes remaining.

"They made big shot after big shot," Walters said. "You've got to hand it to them. That one half-courter, I think somebody's armpit was in his face and he still made it."

The fourth quarter saw both teams trade basket after basket. Madison held the biggest lead of the period — three points — twice at 60-57 and 65-62. A Smith three gave the Cougars a two-point edge midway through the quarter.

Madison later tied the game, but North Harrison kept a slight edge, with Dalton Fessel scoring inside to put the Cougars up three, 71-68.

North Harrison’s Cory Smith fires over Madison’s Nick Macon (44) and Carson Wattenbarger in his 25-point effort.
Madison called time-out then Macon scored inside to close the gap to one. North Harrison turned the ball over with 20 seconds left in the game, with the Cubs then calling time-out.

Madison held the ball to the seven-second mark then called time-out again. North Harrison then made their play with a time-out. When action resumed, Martin forced a Madison turnover at mid-court and was fouled with 4.2 seconds left. He made it look easy, sliding both freebies in the basket for a 73-70 lead.

Madison called time-out again, as did the Cougars.

Madison went long on the inbound pass to Wattenbarger in the far left corner. Martin patiently waited for the ball to get there and intercepted the pass. The Cougar senior took three dribbles then tossed the ball in the air as North Harrison got the three-point win.

"Martin stole the ball twice down the stretch," Walters said. "He stole it the first time and made the two big free throws, and his ankle is as big as a balloon, so he's out there just gutting it out.

"There at the end, I thought he'd lost his man and was going to give up a three in the corner, and he told me he was just baiting the pass, and he stole it. He made a great play."

"Last year, we were up at Madison, and they were in the same situation," the Cougar coach said. "We were talking about it during the time-out. We didn't switch a screen. We were switching all screens, and they hit a three to win the game at the buzzer."

Smith led the Cougars with 25 points, including 15 on five three-pointers. Martin finished with 18 points, and Tyler Bement had 13. The Cougars shot the ball well, canning 30 of 51 field-goal attempts (59 percent) and 5 of 10 free throws. North Harrison had just eight turnovers.

"We were real proud we were able to get those two stops down the stretch," Walters said. "Hopefully, we can continue to get stops and defend. … We've got to continue to get better defensively each and every time out."

Macon led Madison with 22 points. Thurston finished with 16 on five three-pointers and a free throw, and Matt Woolard had 12. The Cubs were 23 of 41 from the field (56 percent) and 12 of 15 from the charity stripe.

The mid-part of the season has seen the Cougars on a roll, as they have won nine of their last 10 and are 11-4 for the year.

"You've got to give credit to the kids," Walters said. "They've come in and worked hard since day one. In the off-season, we've got guys that like to play basketball and want to continue to. Our schedule gets real tough. Madison was a good team and a good win."

Walters said there's still a rough way to go in the last few weeks of the regular season.

"I don't think anybody left on our schedule has a losing record," he said. "We play some of the top teams in the state. Providence, although they lost this week, just a tremendous team. Clarksville is a tremendous team. Paoli is a really rough, physical team, and Charlestown has played real well.

"So, our schedule isn't easy down the stretch. We just want to continue to focus and get better, get better defensively and be ready come sectional time to be at our best."

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