The South Putnam boys' basketball team rebounded from a devastating loss to Rockville Friday with a dramatic, down to the wire victory over visiting Eminence 67-64 Saturday.
The Eagles displayed that, as a team, they've progressed to the point of being able to gain a lead and preserve it.
South started the quarter with an eight point lead but a charging Eminence squad continued to chip away at the lead an tied the ballgame at 60-all with 1:57 remaining.
Eagles junior Conor Frame scored four points in 18 seconds to secure the lead and ultimately the win for the Eagles. Nathan Welty and Cameron Chestnut hit two free throws down the stretch as the Eagles pick up the win.
"We put ourselves in a hole and dug ourselves out of it. We did what we had to do to win the game. They tied it up and we hit some free throws down the stretch and we executed down the stretch. We could have panicked and we didn't," South Putnam head coach Brian Gardner said.
The beginning of the game looked like an extension of the night before with the Eagles stalling out of the gate and falling behind early. The Eels attack the South Putnam offense aggressively, making the Eagles fall back on their heels. Eminence built a lead during the first quarter with Bobby Stinson and Grant Shupe supplying six points each. With South Putnam struggling to find itself, the Eels closed the quarter with an 18-12 lead.
The Eels built a lead of nine points early but midway through the second quarter, the Eagles flipped the switch and refused to give any ground. Where the Eagles looked tentative in the first quarter, they began to attack the Eels and seize back the momentum.
Starting at the 4:01 mark, the Eagles went on a 10-0 run and held a 33-31 advantage with 1:17 to go. South Putnam and the Eels traded buckets for the remainder of the half and enter the half tied at 33-all.
In the first half, Eminence attacked the Eagles relentlessly, applying pressure at every turn. A young squads initial reaction is to withdraw from the pressure, but the Eagles rose to the occasion.
"They caused us a lot of trouble by really attacking us and getting their hands out," Gardner said. "I thought we were on our heels to begin with and then after about a quarter and a half, we said "you know what, I think we can handle this". We started to square up and said, "OK if you're going to do this then we'll attack the rim"."
Nathan Welty got things going for South after the half by connecting on five fast points but the highlight for the Eagles came at the 5:24 mark.
Cameron Chestnut received a pass on the left baseline and connected on a three while being pushed out of bound. He went to the line and converted the four-point play and put the Eagles up by 10 points at 43-33.
South Putnam stayed out front for the rest of the quarter as the Eels began to chip away at the lead, but the Eagles held a 53-47 advantage after three.
Coming off the loss to Rockville, the Eagles showed that the improved play they've displayed was not fleeting. Gardner thought that getting the win is pivotal to the success of the Eagles.
"That's a big deal for us," Gardner commented. "When you go in and play a team like Rockville the night before and they pretty much manhandle you, it's hard to come back the next night and have an intense defensive effort. Tonight, I thought we handle it pretty well. That might have been why we had a slow start. We had to adjust to them getting into us.
"They really pressured us and had their hands on us and we had to adjust to that. I think once we did that, we settled into our own and we able to do some good things," Gardner concluded.
The Eagles (2-8, 0-2 WCC) will travel to Greencastle (6-3, 2-0 WCC) to face the Tiger Cubs at 7:30 Friday.
At South Putnam
Eminence 18 15 14 17 -- 64
South Putnam 12 21 20 14 -- 67
Eminence -- Stinson 8 2-4 18, G. Shupe 6 0-2 12, J. Shupe 4 1-2 11, Kukman 3 0-0 7, Ford 0 7-8 7, #1 1 2-2 5, Marcum 1 0-0 3, Lawson 0 1-2 1. Totals: 23-54 FG 13-20 FT 64 TP.
South Putnam -- Boswell 7 1-3 16, Frame 6 2-2 15, Chestnut 4 5-9 14, Sebanc 2 2-2 8, Welty 2 1-2 6, Masters 0 4-10 4, Nelson 1 0-2 2, Cash -- 0 2-2 2. Totals: 22-53 FG 17-32 FT 67 TP.
3pt. FG -- Eminence 5 (J. Shupe 2, Marcum, Kukman, #1), South Putnam 6 (Sebanc 2, Chestnut, Welty, Boswell, Frame). Total fouls -- Eminence 27, South Putnam 18. Fouled out -- Eminence (Stinson, Lawson).
Next game -- The Eagles (2-8, 0-2 WCC) will travel to Greencastle (6-3, 2-0 WCC) to face the Tiger Cubs at 7:30 Friday.