The South Putnam Eagles rode the wave of a blistering first quarter surge and earned its first win of the season over North Vermillion in the second game of the Eagle Holiday Classic, 55-50 Friday.
The Eagles came out revitalized after the break and proceeded to seize any opportunity that presented itself. The guards penetrated the defense and the big men down under battled intensely. In short, South Putnam has arrived.
The Eagles soared past the Falcons and took a 16-2 advantage as the first quarter ended. The Eagles had six players put points on the board in the opening eight minutes.
South Putnam's hot hand cooled as the second quarter started. The Eagles scored six in the quarter, four of which came from the charity stripe. As the squads entered their locker rooms to draw up their second half battle plans, the Eagles held to a 22-13 lead.
South continued to dominate play, outscoring North Vermillion 15-11 in the third. Cameron Chestnut paced the Eagles with eight points in the period, including two from downtown. The Eagles owned a 13 point advantage going into the fourth quarter.
In the fourth, the Falcons made up for lost time. Behind big performances from Jacob Rankin and Zach Jumps, North Vermillion scored a whopping 26 points in the fourth and closed the gap to only four with less than 30 second left.
Composure at the free throw line delivered South Putnam its first win of the season. Michael Sebanc and Noah Boswell hit free throws down the stretch to secure the victory.
"I was really proud of our kids, hanging in there. When things started going bad there for us, we could have gone back to some of our old ways. I thought we got our composure a little bit and weathered that little storm there at the end," Gardner commented.
Up next for the Eagles will be the Clay City Eels in the championship game. The Eels defeated Cascade 51-48 to earn their spot in the finals. Gardner addressed the issue of help-side defense and how he thinks it could be a factor in the game. He also acknowledged the guard play that Clay City utilizes and knows his team's need to step up its defensive effort.
"We have to be able to take care of the basketball. They're a pretty good team. We going to have to be able to stop some of their guards they put out there. They do a good job of making your defense work," he said. "We're going to have the same type of effort we did tonight and probably even better of an effort."
Seeing six games pass without a win can wear on a team and South is no exception. Gardner said it was nice to see the kids exit the court with smiles instead of their heads hanging. Now with the proverbial monkey of their back, South Putnam can hopefully build upon it new found winning ways.
"I think the first win is always the toughest one to get. I think once you get it, especially with a young team, they now know what it takes. It will be big for us," Gardner said.
South will take on Clay City for the Eagle Holiday Classic title at South Putnam beginning at 7:30 p.m.
At South Putnam
North Vermillion 2 11 11 26 -- 50
South Putnam 16 6 15 18 -- 55
North Vermillion -- Jumps 16, Buchhaas 10, Rankin 8, McBride 6, Downs 5, Clark 2, Smith 2, Boling 1. Totals: FG 18 FT 14-23 TP 50.
South Putnam -- Welty 14, Boswell 12, Chestbut 10, Sebanc 6, Frame 6, Masters 5, Nelson. Totals: FG 18 FT 15-25 TP 55.
3pt. FG -- South Putnam 4 (Chestnut 2, Sebanc, Welty).
Next game -- South will take on Clay City for the Eagle Holiday Classic title at South Putnam beginning at 7:30 p.m.