In Friday's Eagle Junior Varsity Holiday Tournament, the host South Putnam Eagles fell to Cascade in the finals by a score of 46-39. Although Eagle coach Chris Jones was disappointed with a loss, he was pleased with the progress his young team continues to display as the season wears on.
"We're getting better. We lost by 15 to them earlier in the year. We lost by seven today, but it was a closer game than seven points. I felt like we played better as a team," Jones said. "There are still a lot of things we have to get better on, but Cascade's a tough team. They're well really well coached."
The most impressive stretch for South Putnam came in the second quarter. Finding themselves trailing 16-6 after the first quarter, the Eagles outscored the Cadets 12-6 in the frame to cut the halftime lead to 22-18.
"We were down 10 after the first quarter, and early in the year, we would have folded. It was 16-6 (after the first) and it was a four-point game at halftime," Jones commented. "I told the guys, 'That was about your effort and your willingness not to give up and your heart.' That's what we did, we didn't give up, we got some turnovers, started blocking out just a little bit and converted on some opportunities that we had and cut the lead down."
In the third, however, the Eagles returned to their first quarter struggles, with the Cadets outscoring them 10-6.
"I wish we had sustained that in the third quarter," Jones said. "Then I thought the effort in the fourth quarter to come back and make another run was good as well. That's the upside -- we did get down, but we fought back and we didn't give up."
Most of the trouble came from the Cadets' Michael Pelley, who used his height advantage to score, rebound, block and redirect shots. The forward finished the game with 20 points.
"The kids played hard. They played pretty smart for the most part," Jones said. "Turnovers in the first half killed us. We had two bad quarters and that will hurt you in the long run."
Grant Zimmerman led the Eagles with 18 points. Seth Arnold was second with eight.
"I liked the play overall today. Grant Zimmerman played well. Spenser Smith came well off the bench. He played really well for us. I'm pleased overall with everybody's effort."
With the improvement he sees, Jones is very optimistic heading into the second half of the season.
"Things are looking up for us. We're young and we're going to keep getting better," the coach concluded.
South advanced to the finals by defeating North Vermillion 45-22 in the first round. Zimmerman had 17 points in game one, followed by Smith with 13.
At South Putnam
Eagle JV Holiday Tourney
North Vermillion 6 6 6 4 -- 22
South Putnam 12 11 11 11 -- 45
South Putnam -- Zimmerman 17, Smith 13, Freeman 4, Varvel 4, Dean 4, Williams 3.
Cascade 16 6 10 14 -- 46
South Putnam 6 12 6 15 -- 39
South Putnam -- Zimmerman 18, Arnold 8, Dean 5, Varvel 4, Freeman 2, Smith 1, Williams 1.