With only one minute remaining in the third quarter Friday, it appeared Greencastle was cruising to an easy victory over host South Putnam.
Cal Gard hit a three-pointer from Michael Richardson, and the Tiger Cubs held their largest lead at 19 points.
But South Putnam Coach Kyle Brewer wasn't about to let his team give up.
"I told our kids, 'hey, we've played in games where a team has been up 19 points and we've battled back,'" Brewer said. "And I think they really believed that we could come back."
South Putnam made a spirited fourth quarter run, cutting the Greencastle lead to as close as three points, and finally two points. But as Eagle Drew Christy hit a bank three-pointer, the final seconds ticked off the clock. With clutch and timely shooting, the Tiger Cubs held on, defeating the Eagles, 54-52, Friday, winning the prized Putnam County Bucket.
"First of all, I was happier with the way we played, as far as how hard we played tonight," Greencastle Coach Troy Greenlee said. "I thought we played about as hard tonight as we've played in a while."
Gard led the Tiger Cubs with 18 points and five assists, while Richardson had eight points and eight assists in the game, including five in the third quarter alone.
After taking a 27-19 lead into halftime, Greencastle came out shooting lights out in the third quarter, knocking down 9-of-14 field goals. Gard had seven points in the quarter, and the Tiger Cubs appeared to be well on their way to their fifth victory of the season.
"The third quarter we really got out, pushed it up and got some easy baskets," Greenlee said.
However, the Eagles bounced back, ending the third quarter on a 5-0 run, followed by an 8-0 run to start the fourth quarter. After Greg Chestnut hit a three-pointer with 2:35 remaining, Greencastle's lead dwindled to three points at, 46-43.
The Eagles were back in the ball game -- and with plenty of time.
"I thought our kids showed a lot of composure to fight back," Brewer said. "The fourth quarter they played hard, physically."
Greencastle stretched the lead to eight points when Gard hit a runner with 1:36 remaining, but South Putnam again answered with a Chestnut three to cut the lead to five points. Gard then responded by cutting through the lane with a right hand for two points with just over one minute remaining.
Up seven points, once again, it appeared the game was over.
However, South Putnam never said die. Chestnut hit another three-pointer, cutting the Greencastle lead to 53-49 with 14.3 seconds remaining.
It was just a classic case of having too little too late.
The Christy three-pointer with only seconds remaining cut the lead to 54-52, but the Eagles never saw another possession.
"We've got a to do a better job when we get a lead like that and not relax," Greenlee said. "I think that's kind of human nature. We've got to fight human nature to be able to do that."
South Putnam was led by Matt Hicks, recording a double-double with 22 points and 11 rebounds. Throughout much of the Eagles' fourth-quarter run, South Putnam fed Hicks in the block, and he was converting.
"We were trying to do that the whole game," Brewer said. "It just didn't get done."
Chestnut ended with 14 points, while Christy added seven points in the game. Ben Anderson had five assists in the game.
"We're still trying to learn how to put together 32 minutes," Brewer said.
The Eagles fall to 6-6 on the season, while Greencastle improves to 5-6.
Overall, Greenlee was pleased with his team's effort.
"I thought we're showing a little more cohesiveness," he said. "Guys are getting together, they're playing better together, they're sharing the ball. They're doing the things they need to do to be a good team."
The Tiger Cubs will look to move to .500 tonight at Danville at 7:30 p.m.
At South Putnam
Greencastle 11 16 19 8 -- 54
South Putnam 7 12 13 20 -- 52
Greencastle -- Fenlon 3-4 1-6 7, Remsburg 3-9 0-1 7, Faust 1-3 0-0 2, Richardson 3-5 0-1 8, Gard 7-12 3-4 18, Troyer 3-6 0-0 8, Smiley 0-0 0-0 0, Burks 2-7 0-0 4. FG 22-46, FT 4-12, 54 TP.
South Putnam -- Rhine 1-6 0-0 2, Christy 3-8 0-0 7, McKinney 0-1 0-0 0, Anderson 1-5 0-0 2, Chestnut 5-7 0-0 14, Tomasino 2-5 1-2 5, Hicks 11-17 0-3 22. FG 23-49, FT 1-5, TP 52.
3 pt. -- Greencastle 6 (Richardson 2, Troyer 2), South Putnam 6 (Chestnut 4), Rebounds -- Greencastle 30 (Troyer 5, Fenlon 5), South Putnam 26 (Hicks 11), Assists -- Greencastle 16 (Richardson 8), South Putnam 13 (Anderson 5), Steals -- Greencastle 9 (Remsburg 4), South Putnam 4 (Christy 2).
Next game -- The Tiger Cubs play at Danville today at 7:30 p.m., while the Eagles play at Monrovia Friday at 7:30 p.m.