That game was closer than the score shows.
Late misses at the line and turnovers spelled disaster for the Cougars in the opening game. North Putnam cut into the lead late in the game, but the Clovers were able to say in front for the win.
"We're fighters and that's what I love about these kids," NP head coach Nathan Martindale said. "For us, it came down to missed opportunities. We missed a handful of free throws and more than a handful of layups, and in a game like this, in a setting like this, you can't afford to miss layups and free throws. And that's what cost us."
The style of play that North Putnam utilized to shave the Clovers lead, was exactly what Cloverdale head coach Pat Rady expected. Following the contest, he acknowledged the team knew what North Putnam was capable of and was pleased with the way they withstood the challenge.
"I was very proud of our players," Rady commented. "We knew North Putnam, their offense is one that gets to the basket and we knew we had to try to stop the drive as much as we could. I thought we finally adjusted and done that. They're a fine ball club. They're quick -- they got a lot of quickness, so we're very pleased.
"We knew they would make runs and I was proud of our kids, that when they did makes runs, we responded and then we made a little run. It was a typical Putnam County rivalry game," he added with a smile.
To open the game, the Clovers were able to come out firing, with senior Jacob Clark taking control early and causing problems for North Putnam. The quick guard sliced his way to the goal, scoring six points in the opening quarter. When he wasn't hitting, Kevin Dean was waiting, scoring four in the quarter.
Brandon Moon got in on the act in the second quarter and helped Cloverdale extend its lead to 30-21 entering the half.
For the Cougars, they had a balanced offensive attack, but had trouble limiting the Cloverdale guards in the first half. Tim Wiltermood and James Hedrick combined for 15 points to led the Cougars in the first half.
Cloverdale was able to build its lead to 15 after the third quarter, with Dean scoring seven points in the period. The Clovers found out quickly that North Putnam had no thoughts of packing it in and going home.
Spurred by Kyle Adams and Hedrick, North Putnam began to chip away at the lead in the fourth and with the minutes fading fast, the Cougars closed the gap to six. But Cloverdale's lead was just too much to over come. They would hold on for a 59-46 win and a spot in the championship game.
The game was a literally a battle as both teams played a physical game. There was banging, pulling and Cloverdale's Dean even suffered a cut close to his eye in the second half of play. In short, it was what small town basketball is all about.
Martindale thought his team did a good job in their primary goal of limiting Moon's chances, but he knows it was the little things that cost them the game. He commented that they are fighters and that won't stop anytime soon.
"These guys are hungry -- they want to win a game -- and they saw it was within our grasp. We got it down to six and we let it slip away," he said. "They're hungry and excited to come back tomorrow and get our first win."
Led by Dean's 15, Cloverdale had four players score in double-figures on the night. Something Rady is pleased with, but not content with.
"Coming into this game, we had four guys averaging in double-figures and we're really pleased. We've been trying to be a balanced squad this year and get good ball movement. I think we still have to take small steps and we're getting there," he said.
Cloverdale will face Greencastle for the Putnam County Classic title, following the North Putnam and South Putnam showdown that tips at 6:30 p.m. tonight.
Putnam County Classic
Cloverdale 13 17 16 13 -- 59
North Putnam 10 11 10 15 -- 46
Cloverdale -- Dean 14, Clark 14, Salter 12, Moon 12, Hayden 4, Scisney 2. Totals: 24-55 FG, 7-8 FT, 59 TP
North Putnam -- Hedrick 20, Wiltermood 9, Adams 8, Lucas 5, Jones 2, Franklin 2. Totals: 21-57 FG, 2-9 FT, 46 FT.
Next game -- Cloverdale will face Greencastle for the Putnam County Classic title, following the North Putnam and South Putnam showdown that tips at 6:30 p.m. tonight.