Anyone doubting the North Putnam boys' basketball team was served a healthy dose of reality Friday.
The Cougars came out fired up, pushing the ball up the court and playing hard-nosed defense. From the opening tip, North Putnam controlled the pace of the game, convincingly defeating Turkey Run, 57-42.
"Coming out of Christmas, you always worry about having rust, especially when you haven't played," North Putnam Coach Wes Peek said. "Our kids wanted to come out and prove they didn't care if they were rusty, they didn't care if they hadn't played, they were going to beat somebody tonight."
Leading the way for the Cougars, Riley McGaughey had a game-high 21 points on 8-of-11 shooting from the field, while Lee Fordice scored 13 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Jake Mullis was flawless on the night, going 2-of-2 from the field and 5-of-5 from the free throw line and dishing out a game-high nine assists.
Mullis led the North Putnam run-and-gun offense, which shot to a 17-11 first-quarter lead.
Peek was pleased to see his fast-paced offensive ideals come to life.
"That's been the game plan every night," Peek said. "It just hasn't happened. We had three weeks for Christmas, where we didn't have to play, so we spent three weeks on pushing the ball up the floor. I think tonight we got a glimpse of what that can be. Hopefully, we won't forget about that."
North Putnam was 7-of-11 shooting in the opening period, with Mullis contributing all five of his points and two assists.
The second period saw the pace slow down a bit, as both teams picked up the defensive intensity. The first points came when McGaughey converted a layup three minutes into the quarter, giving the Cougars a 19-11 lead.
McGaughey put his team on his back in the period, scoring eight of North Putnam's 10 points, while the Cougars held Turkey Run to a mere four points.
The Cougars held a 27-15 advantage going into the break.
Heading into the third quarter, the Cougars hit the gas again.
"I thought we came out the second half and had the same attitude we had in the first quarter," Peek said.
McGaughey continued to set the pace, hitting a 3-pointer and following with two points down low. With 5:27 remaining in the quarter, McGaughey hit a baseline jumper, giving North Putnam a 34-17 lead.
At that point, McGaughey had 15 of the Cougars 17 points in the last 11 minutes, and McGaughey had outscored Turkey Run, 15-4, in that stretch of the game.
"You always know that he's going to give you everything he's got," Peek said. "You always know at the end of the night, he's going to fill up the box score.Tonight he exerted his will on them and decided he was going to be the best player on the floor. And he was tonight."
After two Mullis free throws, North Putnam cruised into the final period with a 47-29 lead, never looking back in the contest.
The Cougars shot 18-of-38, going 47 percent from the field, while Turkey Run was held to 16-of-43 shooting on the night.
Justin Paxton led Turkey Run in scoring and rebounding with 11 points and six boards in the contest.
North Putnam outrebounded Turkey Run 26-18 in the game.
"All around, this was probably our best effort," Peek said. "I think we've had good effort all year, but I think top to bottom, offensively and defensively, this was our best ball game by far."
The Cougars improve to 3-4 on the season, and face Monrovia Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The North Putnam girls' varsity basketball team hosts South Vermillion Saturday at 7 p.m., making up a game earlier in the season.
Turkey Run 11 4 14 13 -- 42
North Putnam 17 10 20 10 -- 57
Turkey Run -- Paxton 5-10 1-3 11, Scott 1-4 1-2 3, Davies 1-7 0-0 2, Newnum 2-4 0-0 7, Zanandrea 0-1 2-2 2, Allee 3-6 1-2 7, Coddington 1-3 0-1 2, Woods 0-2 0-0 0, Brown 3-7 1-2 7. Totals FG 16-43, FT 6-12, TP 42.
North Putnam -- Ensor 2-6 0-0 4, C. Fordice 0-2 0-0 0, L. Fordice 5-9 3-6 13, McGaughey 8-11 3-4 21, B. Dahlstrom 2-5 0-0 5, Mullis 2-2 5-5 10, Trent 0-3 1-2 1, Schreiber 0-0 2-2 2, G. Dahlstrom 0-0 0-0 0, Blaydes 0-0 0-0 0, Diebold 0-0 0-0 0. Totals FG 18-38, FT 14-19 FT, 57 TP.
3 pt. -- Turkey Run 2 (Scott 1, Newnum 1), North Putnam 5 (McGaughey 2), Rebounds -- Turkey Run 18 (Paxton 6), North Putnam 26 (L. Fordice 8), Assists -- Turkey Run 9 (Newnum 3), North Putnam 14 (Mullis 9), Steals -- Turkey Run 8 (Davies 3), North Putnam 11 (Mullis 4), Blocks -- Turkey Run 3, North Putnam 4.
JV -- Turkey Run defeated North Putnam, 39-35.
Next game -- North Putnam plays at Monrovia Friday at 7:30 p.m.