CRAWFORDSVILLE -- For young, inexperienced teams, learning how to win can be the toughest part of the growing process.
The South Putnam boys' basketball team is still learning that lesson.
The Eagles (0-4, 0-1 WCC) dropped what had been a very close game by eight, 46-38, Saturday night at Southmont (2-2, 0-2 Sagamore Conf.).
"I thought our kids played hard. We just had some moments where there was a careless pass or our guys just didn't handle their pressure," Eagle coach Brian Gardner said. "In a game like that, they (Southmont) are seniors and juniors and they've had that experience and they're on their home court.
"You've gotta take care of the basketball and I thought there at the end we had some careless passes to them," he continued. "That caused some turnovers and we didn't get shots. At the end of games you have to get shots and you have to take care of the basketball. I thought in the end that was what hurt us."
The game started rough for the Eagles, with the Mounties taking an early 8-2 lead. South Putnam starting center Adam Masters also picked up two very quick fouls, putting him on the bench for the remainder of the half.
In came regular starter Noah Boswell, on the bench after a rough game Friday night. Boswell quickly drew two charges and became the Eagle's number one scoring threat. Boswell led South with 12 points.
"Noah really played well tonight, and Noah always plays well," Gardner said. "I don't think he had one of his greatest games last night, but I thought tonight when he stepped on the floor he was really mentally focused and into what was going on.
"He really actually sparked us. He took two charges. He lays his body out there. There were times in the game I thought other guys took charges and they didn't call them," Gardner continued.
The Eagles trailed 14-7 after one, but turned the tables in the second quarter.
By taking better care of the ball and turning up the defensive pressure, South Putnam inched its way back into the game before the half. Boswell scored eight of his 12 in the second, sparking the Eagles offensively.
On defense, the Eagles held the Mounties's leading scorer in check in the second. Although Tyler Price finished the night with 25 points, just two of these came in the second quarter.
The biggest key in the Eagles' comeback, though, was reaching the bonus early. They scored seven of their 14 points in the second at the foul line.
At the half, they had tied the game at 21.
The third quarter was closely contested, but the Eagles could never get over the hump. The Mounties hit a three to draw first blood, then maintained a lead between one and six points for the rest of the quarter.
A pair of threes from Cameron Chestnut late in the quarter made it 29-28 Southmont, but that was as close as the Eagles would come. Chestnut went cold thereafter and so did the Eagles.
The third quarter ended with Southmont leading 32-30.
Turnovers at bad times were the difference in the fourth, as the Eagles committed five. The older, more poised Mounties, by contrast, were making their shots, especially Price."
"We did everything we had to do to win the game until the end there. When you don't get shots it's really hard to win," Gardner said. "We have to work on making sure we're stronger with the basketball, especially in the last three minutes of the game."
A bucket from Masters made it 41-38, but this was as close as the Eagles would get. From there, the Mounties were 4-of-5 on free throws, while the Eagles struggled to get shots.
While the loss was frustrating to the coach, he certainly saw some bright spots.
"I thought Noah really stepped in and gave us some great minutes of being a great leader on the floor and leading by that example," he said. "We've gotta have everybody do that, and I thought tonight all of our kids played as hard as they could. When we make some of those errors, we're not going to win very many games on the road.
"Defensively, we need to continue to make sure we play games like we did tonight," he continued. "If we hold teams to under 50 points, we've got chances to win."
Gardner also looks forward to his team turning its fortunes with its first home game of the season this Friday.
"We've got Speedway. It'll be our second conference game, and the great thing about is we get to go home. We have not been at home yet, and for us, we need to make sure and be better at taking care of the basketball, being strong with the ball and making strong, good cuts," he concluded.
The Eagles host the Sparkplugs at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the second half of a girl-boy West Central Conference doubleheader. The girls' game tips off at 6 p.m.
South Putnam 7 14 9 8 -- 38
Southmont 14 7 11 14 -- 46
South Putnam -- Boswell 4-8 4-4 12, Sebanc 2-4 0-0, Chestnut 2-8 0-0 6, Frame 1-6 3-4 5, Masters 1-2 1-1 3, Cash 0-1 3-4 3, Welty 1-9 0-1 2, 0-2 1-4 Nelson. Totals: 11-36 FG, 12-18 FT, 38.
Southmont -- Price 8-14 4-5 25, Actis 2-10 1-2 6, Burkett 2-3 0-0 4, Buck 2-5 0-0 4, Truncone 1-2 1-4 3, Jones 1-5 1-2 3, Rash 0-0 1-2 1, Paris 0-2 0-0 0. Totals: 16-43 FG, 8-15 FT, 46.
3-pt. FG -- SP 4-10 (Sebanc 2-2, Chestnut 2-4), Sm 6-11 (Price 5-8, Actis 1-6). Rebounds -- SP 31 (12 off., 19 def.), Sm 22 (5 off., 17 def.). Turnovers -- SP 19, Sm 9.
Next game -- The Eagles (0-4, 0-1 WCC) host Speedway at 7:30 p.m. Friday.