In the sometimes complex sport of basketball, North Putnam Coach Wes Peek tries to simplify the game for his players.
Defense, rebounding and ball handling -- if you do those things, wins will follow.
For three quarters Tuesday, North Putnam did those three things, and did those things well, holding several leads in the contest and nearly upset Class 2A's No. 4-ranked Tri-West. However, in the fourth quarter, the Bruins got loose, scoring 24 points and spoiling the Cougars' upset hopes, winning the game, 58-49.
'For three quarters, we put together the three things we needed to do,' Peek said. 'We defended, we rebounded and we took care of the ball. In the fourth quarter, that got away from us a little bit. '
With Tyler Bruce getting loose from the perimeter, the Bruins avoided catastrophe.
North Putnam held a 36-34 lead at the end of the third quarter, and a 38-36 lead early in the final period, before Bruce started to heat up.
With 6:43 remaining in the game, Bruce hit his first three-pointer of the period from the elbow, giving Tri-West a 39-38 lead. After North Putnam's Riley McGaughey barreled through the lane for two points, Bruce drained another three-pointer, making the score, 42-40.
And after Jake Mullis answered with a three-pointer of his own, giving North Putnam a 43-42 lead with 4:58 remaining, Bruce hit yet another three-pointer to give Tri-West a 45-43 lead from which they never looked back.
Bruce got loose.
The Tri-West junior simply took over the ball game, scoring 13 points in less than four minutes, and finishing with a game-high 31 points.
'We lost Bruce a few times,' Peek said. 'He knocks down a couple three's. We had some untimely turnovers. And we missed a few block outs that gave them some second shots. That combination can hurt you.'
North Putnam was led by Mullis, scoring 22 points, while McGaughey had nine points and seven rebounds. Brayden Dahlstrom added six points and five rebounds, while Tyler Trent had four assists in the contest.
Despite the lackluster final period, Peek saw a lot of good things from the first three quarters of play.
'I thought we handled their pressure really well early,' he said. 'We handled their traps. We've seen some teams that they've done that to just give them the ball.'
Tri-West improves to 16-2 on the season. The Bruins have only lost to a 14-3 North Montgomery team and a Class 3A Lebanon squad.
'That's a very, very good team,' he said. 'To play them that close and actually have a lead, it's really disappointing to lose that game, as hard as we played and as well as we played in stretches.
'Hopefully, that shows some of these other teams, whoever draws them in the sectional, that they're human,' Peek added. 'Hopefully, it's not us.'
North Putnam falls to 6-10, and hosts Covington Friday at 7:30 p.m.
'Their are a lot of positives,' Peek said. 'You've got a chance to beat the fourth-ranked team in the state. You let it get away. Hopefully, we'll learn from it, come out Friday night and play a game against Covington.'
At North Putnam
Tri-West 10 10 16 13 -- 49
North Putnam 14 8 12 24 -- 58
Tri-West -- Tanselle 0 0-0 0, Groover 1 4-4 6, Robertson 4 2-2 12, Moses 3 1-2 7, Thompson 1 0-0 2, Bruce 13 2-4 31. Totals FG 22, FT 9-12, TP 58.
North Putnam -- Trent 1 0-0 2, Ensor 2 0-0 4, L. Fordice 2 0-0 4, B. Dahlstrom 3 0-0 6, McGaughey 4 0-0 9, C. Fordice 1 0-0 2, Mullis 9 2-3 22, G. Dahlstrom 0 0-0 0. Totals FG 22, FT 2-3, TP 49.
3pt. -- Tri-West 3 (Bruce 3), North Putnam 3 (Mullis 2), Rebounds -- Tri-West 20 (Moses 6), North Putnam 29 (McGaughey 7), Assists -- Tri-West 11 (Moses 4), North Putnam 9 (Trent 4), Steals -- Tri-West 9 (Moses 3), North Putnam 8 (Mullis 6).
Next game -- North Putnam hosts Covington Friday at 7:30 p.m.