Cougars stun South Spencer
By Wade Bell, Sports Writer
The South Spencer boys’ basketball team came into the Perry-Spencer Classic holiday tournament with a clean slate of 8-0 and a No. 3 rating in the AA class in the state. One of those wins came against Crawford County in a 85-64 blowout, as well as beating Perry Central the night before in their tournament opener. But then came North Harrison, which had a major size factor over the Rebels. The game last Tuesday night turned into a royal rumble, and the Cougars gave the Rebels their first loss in a 56-50 decision.
“It was a big win,” said North Harrison coach Lou Lefevre. “We’ve played teams that are very talented and well-coached like them — Barr-Reeve and Heritage Hills — and had very rough nights on both occasions. I was kind of worried that it was going to be another rough night, but I don’t know if we’ve improved or if we just played a really strong game.”
“It was fun,” he said. “They were undefeated, and they’re really good. They kicked the crap out of us last year, and they have most of their guys back plus an additional transfer kid who is awesome, too. So, that was a good win for us.”
For a while, it looked like the Rebels were going to keep their streak going. North Harrison got the first basket of the game, scoring in the paint, but the Rebels countered with seven straight. Following a dry spell with turnovers and missed shots by both teams, Kaleb Kellems scored to pull the Cougars back within three. Sawyer Wetzel followed with a pair of freebies to close the gap to one, but South Spencer countered with six, all in the paint. Logan McIntire got two free throws at the end of the period, and the quarter ended with the Cougars down five, 13-8.
Brody Fessel drilled a three for the Cougars to start the second quarter, and Hatton later put in a single to close the gap to one. From there, the scoring went back and forth for the next several minutes, with South Spencer keeping the advantage but gaining no more than a four-point edge. The final minute saw only a single point scored, by Hatton, leaving the Cougars trailing 24-21 at halftime.
“We had a ton of turnovers early,” said Lefevre. “We had to have close to 10 just in the first quarter with three offensive fouls and several other turnovers. From that standpoint, we could have really been down a lot, but we did good enough defensively to stay in it.”
North Harrison got five quick points to start the second half, McIntire drilling a three and Wetzel converting in the paint following a missed shot by the Rebels to put the Cougars in front 26-24. Chase Garrett scored for South Spencer, but McIntire countered with a three-ball. Kobe Bartlett went inside for two, but Wetzel countered in the lane. The Rebels scored the next five to go back out in front, but Langdon Hatton got a single and McIntire drilled another three to push the Cougars back in the lead. South Spencer, however, scored the last four points of the quarter and had a 37-35 edge with one quarter to go.
“We were in foul trouble early, and we had to go to the bench,” Lefevre said. “(Colin) Higdon came in and got a big basket. Riley Schneider played his best game of the year. He hadn’t been playing so much, and tonight we had to play him and he did a great job. A lot of people gave us big contributions, and that’s what we needed.”
The game went back and forth through the first few minutes of the fourth. North Harrison had a brief lead at 41-40, but Bartlett countered with a three and Garrett sank two free throws for a 45-41 Rebels’ lead. At that point, however, the momentum went to the Cougars. Wetzel sank a free throw, and South Spencer immediately called timeout. The Rebels came out of the break and misfired from behind the arc.
McIntire drilled a three to tie the game at 45, but Holton Compton scored inside for the Rebels. Wetzel put in another freebie, and McIntire drilled another three. Hatton followed with two inside, and South Spencer called timeout again with 48.4 seconds to go in the game. With 30.5 left, Jace Kelly drilled a three for the Rebels, closing the gap to one. It would be their last. South Spencer had to foul at that point, and the Cougars hit five of their six attempts for the 56-50 win.
“We were better defensively in the second half and especially at the end of the game,” Lefevre said. “They didn’t get many easy chances at all in the fourth quarter. The ones they missed were tough shots. That’s what you want to have happen. If they’re going to beat you, they’ve got to make tough shots. They had to take tough shots, and they didn’t make them. That was good for us.”
McIntire led North Harrison with 20 points, connecting on five three-pointers. Hatton finished with 14 for the Cougars, who put in 16 of their 39 field-goal attempts (41%) and 18 of 31 free throws. The Cougars had 15 turnovers for the game, eight of those in the first quarter.
“We got most of the boards on the rebounds,” Lefevre said. “We kind of almost gave it away on the free-throw shooting. We shot really poorly from the free-throw line but we kept scoring. When we got another chance to score, we got one. Logan hit some really big shots in the first half. Logan couldn’t get anything, and he was getting really frustrated. But if you keep playing, things open up for you and, when they did, he made some big shots for us and it was a good team win.”
Kelly led the Rebels with 17 points, and Bartlett finished with 14. South Spencer connected on 22 of 51 field goals (43%) and 5 of 6 from the charity stripe. The Rebels also finished with 15 turnovers, 11 of those in the first half.
“They have so many different weapons,” said the North Harrison coach. “They have three or four really good shooters. (Garrett) was a really good driver and finisher. They had some post kids underneath. You have to try to stop everything. If you take one thing away, they beat you with the other. We did a pretty good job of not giving them a lot of easy chances.”
North Harrison wasn’t done with a game against a strong Perry Central team on the last night of the tournament.
“Tomorrow we’ve got another tough game,” said Lefevre. “Tough, mature teams get a big win, and they just want to come back to do it again just as serious the next night. Teams that aren’t mature think they want a break and could just show up. So, we’ll see what kind of team we are tomorrow and see if we can put another good team on the floor.”
North Harrison 8 13 14 21 – 56
South Spencer 13 11 13 13 – 50
North Harrison – McIntire 20, Hatton 14, Wetzel 11, Fessel 7, Higdon 2, Kellems 2.
South Spencer – Kelly 17, Bartlett 14, Hol. Compton 6, Garrett 6, C. Donoho 3, M. Donoho 2, Hou. Compton 2.
3-pointers – North Harrison 6 (McIntire 5, Fessel 1); South Spencer 5 (Bartlett 2, Kelly 2, C. Donoho 1).