March 06, 2013Pack this coming together of two rivals away for the memory bank.
In what could be argued as one of the wildest final minutes of regulation in the series' history, Corydon Central escaped with a 48-47 victory over North Harrison in the semi-final of the Class 3A Charlestown Sectional Friday.
Boisterous student sections and supporters elevated the noise levels in the finale, but after a pair of Tyler Bement free throws didn't fall through the hoop with 1.5 seconds left for the Cougars, Corydon Central survived.
"There is nothing better than a Corydon/North Harrison game," Panther senior Chase Burton said. "There's a lot of trash talking, but it's fun to play in. It's something I'll always remember, especially one of these games when it's real high intensity and real loud. I'm just glad we won."
It seemed likely that Corydon Central was going to take the victory when Bronson Kessinger converted a lay-up while getting fouled with 13.9 seconds left. With the Panthers leading 48-44, the 6-foot-7 sophomore missed the freebie, giving the Cougars a slim glimmer of hope.
Racing down the court, North Harrison's Cory Smith pulled up for a three-point attempt, but was fouled when he rose for the shot. With 10.2 seconds left, the junior made two of three attempts.
North Harrison students celebrate wildly after Tyler Bement drew a foul with 1.5 seconds remaining on the clock against Corydon Central.
The makes cut Corydon Central's lead to 48-46, but, on the inbound, North Harrison senior Dalton Fessel snagged the pass under the basket. After several shot attempts, Fessel drew a foul, brightening the glimmer.
"Dalton probably got fouled after shooting it two or three times," North Harrison coach Greg Walters said. "He showed the great effort our whole team showed."
He made one of his free throws, pulling the Cougars one closer at 48-47 with six seconds remaining.
On the other end, Corydon Central's Tyler Ross missed a pair of free throws with 5.2 seconds left. North Harrison's Austin Nolot pulled down the board and swung the ball up the right side to Bement. The junior eventually collided with Lander, drawing a foul with 1.5 ticks left.
Bement, who finished the game with 11 points and six boards, missed the pair, with Kessinger pulling down his 14th rebound of the game.
"It's emotional," Walters said. "Our kids wanted this really bad and I'll be honest, I wanted it really bad. It didn't happen. We went from probably not going to happen, to looking like it was going to happen, to it didn't. I just feel for the kids. I'm proud of their effort and to be their coach."
Kolkmeier admitted they were lucky to get out with the win the way the contest closed.
"We didn't do a very good job at the end," he said. "We missed some free throws. We struggled getting the ball inbounds a couple times. To their credit, (North Harrison) hit shots when it could have been over if they missed. We got lucky tonight, and, hopefully, we can play better tomorrow."
Defense was part of the titanic struggle for both teams to score in the opening half. The first and second quarters, neither team could muster double digit points in either.
Corydon Central had a quick start to the game, capped by a Ross-to-Kessinger alley-oop dunk to put the Panthers up 6-0. Scoring after that, in the first half, was difficult for Corydon Central.
"It was brutal offensively," Kolkmeier said. "Bronson, I thought in the first half, didn't work as hard as he could. But it's hard, because (North Harrison's) job is to not let him get the ball. He's going to have to work really hard. Early on, I thought we weren't mentally strong in some situations. At the end, we showed better patience."
North Harrison would come back to gain the lead. Behind six Nolot points, the Cougars would outscore the Panthers 8-2 in the second quarter to lead 17-11 at the break.
"We played great defense and so did they," Walters said. "We were trying to do our best to score. We were able to hold them to two, but couldn't push the lead. They are a very good defensive team with a lot of length with plenty of experience."
North Harrison's Smith caught a hot streak early in the third quarter, nailing three treys in a row, to help the Cougars extend the lead to 27-19.
From that point, North Harrison managed two field goals over a 6-1/2-minute stretch while Corydon Central rallied.
"We knew once we got out there and ran our offense better, getting people the ball in the right spots with better timing, we'd make a comeback at some point," said Corydon Central senior Dylan Jensen.
Ross came up with three critical steals to spark the come back. His first led to Burton converting an old-fashioned three-point play. The last two steals resulted in lay-ups for the Panther senior, the final knotting the game at 29.
"In the second half, shots were falling for us," Burton said. "Ross put us on his back for a little bit and put us back in the game. We turned up the defensive pressure too."
The teams would enter the final quarter tied at 31.
In the final eight minutes, the Panthers would lead by as many as five on three different occasions, the last coming after Lander hit two free throws. With Corydon Central up 42-37, John Martin drove the basket for two Cougar points.
A minute later, Joseph Hinton, who transferred to North Harrison from Corydon Central this year, nailed a triple with 1:15 to play to tie the game at 42.
"We called that knowing they trap ball screens. It was really trying to get a 3 for Cory," Walters said. "They both ran with Cory and it left Joseph (open), and he just knocked it down. A big basket."
Timothy Wiseman scored on Corydon Central's next possession, giving the Panthers a lead they would eventually hang on to despite the wild comeback attempt by North Harrison.
"Our kids really fought back and played hard," Kolkmeier said. "They didn't give up."
Kessinger close the game with adouble-double, scoring 17 points while pulling down 14 boards. He also had four blocked shots. Ross reached double figures with 13 points. Lander closed with 11 points and eight rebounds.
"It was too close for comfort," Jensen said. "A win is a win, it's one of those games we'll take and head to the championship game."
North Harrison placed three in double figures, led by Smith's 13. Bement added 11 while Hinton scored 10.
"We really thought Bement could hurt us on the dribble and he did at times," Kolkmeier said. "Joseph hit some big shots and Smith can score in streaks. We defended well overall."
Both teams struggled at the charity stripe. North Harrison was eight of 18 while Corydon Central was eight of 14.
The loss was a tough one for Walters and North Harrison. It was the first meeting between the rivals in the post-season when they both had winning records since 2003-04.
"I'm proud of Dalton Fessel, proud of Tyler Bement, proud of John Martin," Walters said of his senior group. "Those guys were freshmen when I came here. We went from struggling to competing to beating good teams along with being a legitimate threat in this sectional. Extremely proud of our season, extremely proud of our kids. No one play at the end of the game decided it."
After taking over a program that won three games in 2008-09, Walters has guided the Cougars to back-to-back winning seasons. North Harrison closed the year with a 14-8 record.
"It hurts real bad, but they fought the whole time," Walters said. "As a coach, parent or person in our community, you can be proud when guys give their absolute 110 percent. Each one of those guys did."
The Panthers were able to advance to the championship, where they would face Brownstown Central.
"Probably the loudest gym I've ever been in in my life," Burton said after the win over North Harrison. "Ears were popping. We were under control and were able to get the job done."