Friday night was Cal Gard's night at the McAnally Center. Displaying a confident jumper from deep territory, the Greencastle junior guard scored 32 points on his home court, leading the Tiger Cubs to a 73-64 victory in the first round of the Putnam County Tournament.
"He was big tonight," Greencastle Coach Troy Greenlee said. "He hit a lot of shots, and he hit some shots when we really needed them."
Gard was 10-for-22 in the game, scoring 18 points in the first half alone, while hitting all 10 shots from beyond the arc. Throughout the game, he showed no fear in throwing up shots when open deep, consistently hitting three pointers to pace the Tiger Cubs' offense.
"He's a kid that we rely on to score for us," Greenlee said. "But what we didn't get tonight as much as we had in the first game was him being able to create for other guys. I feel like we have some other guys that can score, and we don't want to rely on Cal scoring all our points."
Brennan Burks added 14 points and six rebounds for Greencastle, while Brian Troyer had eight points and seven rebounds.
The Cougars were led by senior forward Riley McGaughey, scoring 21 points and grabbing seven rebounds in the game. McGaughey was seven-for-nine from the field, including hitting two big three-pointers at crucial points in the game.
Junior Jake Mullis also had a big game for the Cougars scoring 18 points and grabbing five rebounds.
"This was Jake Mullis breakthrough game," North Putnam Coach Wes Peek said. "After tonight, everyone's going to know who Jake Mullis is."
Greencastle started the game jumping off to a 5-0 lead on a Gard three-point bucket, followed by a Burks pullup jumper. However, a McGaughey jump shot and free throw closed the lead to 15-13, before North Putnam ended the period facing a 17-13 deficit.
The second quarter saw the Cougars battle back to take their only lead of the ball game with 3:27 remaining in the half. After Colby Ensor hit Tyler Trent down low for an easy layup, Brayden Dahlstrom came up with a steal, went coast-to-coast, before getting fouled. His two free-throws gave the Cougars a 24-23 lead.
"Tonight we gave up too many easy baskets, too many open looks and didn't do a very good job of defensively being intense," Greenlee said. "I don't know if it was a mental thing or a physical thing, but it just didn't seem like we were alert defensively."
However, it was only a matter of time before hot shooting made up for any lapses.
Gard hit two consecutive three-point buckets, stretching the lead to 32-24, with 1:26 remaining, and they rolled into halftime on a 14-4 run.
North Putnam came as close as 56-52 to start the fourth quarter. With 7:54 remaining, Mullis took the ball hard to the bucket, was fouled and Lee Fordice grabbed the rebound. After a Fordice miss, Dahlstrom grabbed the rebound, missed a shot, grabbed his own rebound and was fouled.
Hitting both his free throws, the Cougars only trailed 56-52 with 7:42 remaining.
Things appeared to be heating up, but the Tiger Cubs continued to shoot the lights out of McAnally, scoring 15 points in the final six minutes of the game to seal the game.
Greencastle moves on to face South Putnam in the tournament championship Saturday at 8 p.m., while North Putnam faces Cloverdale Saturday at 6:30 p.m. in the consolation championship.
Despite the loss, Peek was pleased with the way his team played. The Cougars shot 23-for-43 from the field, hitting 53 percent of their shots. North Putnam also out-rebounded the Cougars, 28-25 in the game, including a game-high 10 rebounds from Lee Fordice.
"We're real happy with our guys' effort tonight," Peek said.
The difference was simply Greencastle's three-point shooting. Peek said the Cougars opted to play the Tiger Cubs zone, which left the lane locked, but the perimeter sometimes open.
Greencastle did not hesitate to take the open look, shooting 31 three-point baskets in the contest, hitting 12 on the night.
Although Gard hit most, Greenlee said he would like to see other guys take good shots too.
"We want to be able to get other guys open," he said. "And I feel like we have guys that can score as well."
North Putnam 13 15 20 16 -- 64
Greencastle 17 20 19 17 -- 73
North Putnam -- C. Fordice 2-5 0-0 4, L. Fordice 4-8 0-1 8, McGaughey 7-9 5-6 21, Dahlstrom 0-2 7-9 7, Trent 3-4 0-0 6, Mullis 7-12 2-2 18, Ensor 0-0 0-0. Totals FG 23-43, FT 14-18, TP 64.
Greencastle -- Burgeson 0-5 3-4 3, Fenlon 0-1 1-2 1, Remsburg 2-6 0-0 6, Richardson 0-0 7-7 7, Gard 10-22 2-2 32, Troyer 4-7 0-0 8, Burks 7-9 0-1 14, Smiley 1-1 0-0 2. Totals FG 24-51, FT 13-16, TP 73.
3 pt. -- North Putnam 4-8 (McGaughey 2-2, Mullis 2-5), Greencastle 12-31 (Gard 10-20, Remsburg 2-6), Rebounds -- North Putnam 28 (L. Fordice 10), Greencastle 25 (Troyer 7), Assists -- North Putnam 10 (Dahlstrom 3), Greencastle 16 (Richardson 5), Blocks -- North Putnam 2 (McGaughey 1, Mullins 1), Greencastle 3 (Fenlon 2).