By KEITH BODNARICK
Wes Peek's North Putnam basketball team grew up a bit Saturday night despite a 64-42 non-conference loss to a talented Western Boone club.
The senior-laden Stars were clearly the superior squad, but North made a game of it early on.
The Cougars jumped out to an 8-3 advantage at the 5:00 mark of the first quarter and maintained their lead until a Drew Pearson three knotted the score at 12-all with 1:40 remaining in the period. Western Boone took their first lead shortly thereafter, but North Putnam regrouped and held a 16-15 lead as the second quarter began.
Western Boone's 6'5 Senior post player Caleb Weber began to assert himself in the second stanza, scoring 9 of his game-high 24 points. North's lack of a physical presence to help on Weber would prove to be the Cougar's undoing, as the Stars went into intermission with a nine-point edge, 33-24.
As in Friday's loss to Turkey Run, the third quarter spelled doom for North Putnam. On Friday, the Cougar defense gave up 28 points to the Warriors. On this night, a lack of offensive production for North was the culprit.
North Putnam was only able to garner one point in the period, as Mitch Hadley connected on the back end of two free throw attempts. In addition, the Cougars committed seven turnovers, roughly half of their miscues in the contest.
The quarter ended with North down twenty, 45-25.
The output on the scoring end was much improved in the final eight minutes for the Cougars, as seniors J.T. Francies and Zack Hedrick connected from behind the arc, but in the end it was simply too much inside-out from Pearson and Weber.
Despite the loss, which dropped North Putnam to 1-7 on the season, Peek was pleased with what he saw: "We're happy with our kids. This is the best team we've faced, and kids played very loose and free for the first half...We played hard for 32 minutes."
Peek went on to praise his two seniors: "I thought J.T. Francies played his best game of the year, and I was very proud of the effort Zack Hedrick gave us tonight. This is probably going to be Zach's last game for us."
Hedrick reportedly informed the coaching staff prior to the game that, due to an unspecified medical condition, he would remain with the team, but as an inactive participant.
The loss of Hedrick leaves the young Cougars with Francies as their only senior. In a season that has already hit North Putnam hard with the loss of Corey Dean due to injuries sustained in a Dec. 1 auto accident, the struggle for maturity and leadership on the Cougar squad promises to be an ongoing project for peek and his staff.
North Putnam was led in scoring by Francies, who netted 14 points.
The Cougar JV was defeated by WEBO, 37-26. North was led by J.T. Wilhite and Travis Franklin, who both had 6 points.
Score by Quarters: 1 2 3 4 Tot
Western Boone 15 18 12 19 64
North Putnam 16 8 1 17 42