For one team, Tuesday night marked the end of the season.
For another, it marked a new beginning.
After losing three straight games, the South Putnam boys' basketball team earned a breath of fresh air Tuesday, as the Eagles defeated North Putnam, 66-54, advancing to the semifinal round of Class 2A's Sectional 45.
"The last three games we've played three pretty good teams in Edgewood, Owen Valley and Northview," South Putnam Coach Kyle Brewer said. "We feel like us doing that at the end of the season prepares us for our sectional. Our kids believed in that and bought into that."
Indeed, South Putnam came out looking like a revived team. The Eagles started the game with an 8-0 run, never relinquishing their lead throughout the remainder of the contest.
South Putnam managed to only commit one turnover in the first 16 minutes of the game, while forcing nine North Putnam turnovers, taking a 34-22 lead into halftime.
"I think there was a little tightness," North Putnam Coach Wes Peek said of his team. "They were the aggressors early. We had to try to rebound from their initial energy. Unfortunately, they were the ones that came out at the beginning of the game."
South Putnam senior big man Matt Hicks scored 16 of his 20 points in the first half alone, while North Putnam center Lee Fordice was forced to the bench, picking up two early fouls.
The Eagles shot 14-of-29 for 48 percent from the field, while the Cougars only managed 19 shots in the first half, connecting on eight.
"I thought the big key early on was our defense," Brewer said. "I thought that our kids did a pretty good job through about two-and-a-half quarters."
However, in the second half, momentum started to shift in a big way.
After an early 9-0 South Putnam run, making the game, 41-22, North Putnam finally woke up.
The Cougars went on a 15-0 run, forcing six South Putnam turnovers in the span, closing South Putnam's lead to six points, 43-37, with seven seconds remaining in the period.
"We got the pressure on their guards like we wanted," Peek said. "We started to get stops. We were aggressive to the basket. When you do those things, it makes it easy."
Just when it appeared the game was more than in reach, South Putnam's Greg Chestnut grabbed the ball and extended his arm away from the Cougars.
Chestnut hit a buzzer-beating bank three-pointer, extending the South Putnam lead to nine points entering the final period.
Brewer couldn't help but show his appreciation for the shot after the game.
"The big answer to that run was Chestnut hitting that bank three at the end of the third quarter," he said.
After that, Chestnut somewhat took over the game, scoring 16 of the Eagles' 20 fourth-quarter points.
Despite another North Putnam run late in the fourth quarter, closing South Putnam's lead to six points at 58-52, the Eagles were able to hold on to the victory.
"Anytime North Putnam and South Putnam play, whether it's the sectional, the county or the regular season, anything can happen," Brewer said. "I thought that our kids showed a lot of composure, a lot of focus and played good defense."
Chestnut led all scorers with 26 points in the game, while Hicks added 20 points for the Eagles. Chestnut hit 8-of-13 shots in the game, including 4-of-8 three-pointers, while also grabbing a team-high six rebounds.
"Our team is a much better team when Greg is hitting his shots," Brewer said. "That was huge for our team for him to step up and hit some shots. Anytime that happens, it helps to open up things inside for us. It makes it a little bit easier to get the ball to Hicks and Tomasino."
Drew Christy added eight points and four assists for the Eagles, while Ben Anderson had seven points, six assists and four steals.
Junior Jake Mullis led North Putnam with 19 points, eight rebounds and four steals in the game. Senior Riley McGaughey added 14 points and a game-high 11 rebounds, while Brayden Dahlstrom had eight points, four assists and two steals.
The Cougars forced 13 South Putnam turnovers in the second half.
"I thought our aggressiveness picked up in the second half, much more than the first," Peek said. "I thought that was really the only difference."
The loss ends North Putnam's season and the high school hoops careers of Fordice, McGaughey, Colby Ensor and Cory Fordice.
After the game, Peek, who was wrapping up his first year leading a high school varsity program, had nothing but good things to say about his outgoing seniors.
"Those are four guys that you can't replace," Peek said. "I think Cory Fordice has a huge heart. He did a lot of great things for us everyday in practice, as far as leadership goes. And Colby Ensor is a kid I don't think many people thought was going to play that much this year and has really played himself into a role.
"Lee and Riley have just been so consistent for us on the floor. And they've been great to have in the locker room," Peek added.
For South Putnam, life goes on Friday against Cascade at 6 p.m. The Eagles lost to the Cadets, 64-52, Dec. 21 and, 52-41, Dec. 29.
"I think the next hardest thing besides beating a time twice is beating a team three times," Brewer said. "We're going to take a look at the tape, take a look at what we've got and put together our best game plan to stop them."
At South Putnam
Class 2A Sectional 45
North Putnam 11 11 15 17 -- 54
South Putnam 19 15 12 20 -- 66
North Putnam -- Trent 1-1 0-0 2, Ensor 1-2 0-0 2, L. Fordice 3-7 0-0 6, B. Dahlstrom 3-3 2-5 8, McGaughey 3-11 7-8 14, C. Fordice 0-1 0-0 0, Mullis 7-13 4-6 19, G. Dahlstrom 1-3 1-3 3. Totals FG 19-41, FT 14-22, TP 54.
South Putnam -- Rhine 0-1 0-0 0, Christy 3-10 2-2 8, McKinney 1-2 1-3 3, Anderson 2-6 2-3 7, Chestnut 8-13 6-7 26, Tomasino 1-2 0-2 2, Hicks 8-16 2-5 20. Totals FG 23-48, FT 13-25, TP 66.
3 pt. -- North Putnam 2 (Mullis 1, McGaughey 1), South Putnam 6 (Chestnut 4), Rebounds -- North Putnam 33 (McGaughey 11), South Putnam 20 (Chestnut 6), Assists -- North Putnam 7 (B. Dahlstrom 4), South Putnam 15 (Anderson 6), Steals -- North Putnam 10 (Mullis 4), South Putnam 11 (Anderson 4), Blocks -- North Putnam 4 (Ensor 2), South Putnam 2 (Hicks 2), Turnovers -- North Putnam 20, South Putnam 15, Total Fouls -- North Putnam 19, South Putnam 20. Fouled out -- L. Fordice (NP), Christy (SP).
Next game -- South Putnam hosts Cascade Friday at 6 p.m.