CLAYTON -- It wasn't exactly a storybook ending for the North Putnam girls' basketball team this year, falling to Tri-West, 51-35, in the first round of the Cascade Sectional Tuesday.
Nevertheless, North Putnam Coach Kevin Smith is still proud of his team.
'I love this team,' Smith said. 'I felt like we played hard from day one. I do feel like we're a better basketball team now than we were in October.'
The Bruins displayed an impressive inside-out game throughout the contest, converting with Jessica Mitchell in the post and Jenna Cloud on the perimeter.
Mitchell ended with 22 points and seven rebounds, while Cloud added 13 points to the effort.
'That combination of Mitchell and Cloud -- that inside-out game -- it's really hard to guard,' Smith said. 'They did a nice job of positioning their weapons in good places. It made it difficult for us to defend them.'
Senior Laura Blaydes led the Cougars with 14 points and seven boards, while Chelsea Greene added nine points, all of which were in the first quarter.
The Cougars started strong, with Greene hitting from the outside. After falling to an early 8-3 lead, North Putnam was able to battle back, tying the game at 8-all on a three-pointer from Greene with 3:01 remaining in the quarter.
When Greene hit another three-pointer, making the score 13-10 with 1:58 remaining, the Cougars held their largest lead of the game.
After a 4-0 run, the Bruins went into the second quarter with a 14-13 advantage.
When Brook Miller connected with Taylor Alles off the inbound for two points, the Cougars held a 15-14 lead early in the second quarter.
However, that was the last lead North Putnam would see.
The Cougars went cold from the field, only scoring a combined 13 points in the second and third periods, going into the final quarter facing a 36-26 deficit.
'We didn't hit shots,' Smith said. 'There were a lot of good looks. We'd been shooting the ball really well in practice. The shots just didn't go down for us.
'When you're a small team and a perimeter oriented team, almost every night it boils down to hitting shots. Some nights you're really good when you're shooting the ball well, and some nights you're not,' Smith added.
The Cougars finish the season with a 6-15 record, while the Bruins improve to 11-10, and play South Putnam Friday at 6 p.m. The Eagles defeated the Bruins, 52-42, earlier in the season.
Despite losing the game Tuesday, looking ahead to next year, Smith feels confident in his future team. Although Blaydes, Skene, Mackenzie Pearson and Diebold will all be missed, the Cougars will have a lot of important pieces returning to next year's squad.
'I've got my entire backcourt back. Greene and Miller usually do a pretty good job handling the basketball. They both shoot the ball well,' Smith said. 'I've got a couple young, freshmen post players this year who will be sophomores next year. I'm looking for them to progress and grow as players.'
At Cascade Sectional
North Putnam 13 7 6 9 -- 35
Tri-West 14 12 10 15 -- 51
North Putnam -- Greene 3 0-0 9, Miller 0 0-0 0, Pearson 0 0-0 0, Diebold 0 0-0 0, Mitchell 0 0-0 0, L. Doyle 0 0-0 0, A. Doyle 0 0-0 0, Blaydes 6 1-1 14, Alles 2 0-0 4, Johnston 0 0-0 0, Skene 4 0-0 8, Crosby 0 0-0 0. Totals FG 15, FT 1-1, TP 35.
Tri-West -- Rhoades 0 2-2 2, Jansen 0 0-0 0, Anderson 1 0-0 3, Cloud 4 2-2 13, Bennett 0 1-4 1, Cagle 0 0-0 0, MacKinnon 0 0-0 0, Lynn 5 0-0 10, Booker 0 0-0 0, Mitchell 6 10-12 22. Totals FG 16, FT 14-19, TP 51.
3 pt. -- North Putnam 4 (Greene 3), Tri-West 4 (Cloud 3), Rebounds -- North Putnam 25 (Blaydes 7), Tri-West 20 (Mitchell 7), Assists -- North Putnam 7 (Miller 6), Tri-West 12 (Rhoades 3), Steals -- North Putnam 2 (Miller 1, Diebold 1), Tri-West 8 (Mitchell 2, Anderson 2).
Next game -- North Putnam finishes the season 6-15, while Tri-West plays South Putnam Friday at 6 p.m.