GREENCASTLE -- It's not that the effort isn't there. If it isn't, South Putnam head coach Micah Elliott gets his team to get back into the game and play with more intensity. It's certainly not for a lack of defense. The Eagle zone defenses constantly frustrated a Speedway team that wanted to attack the basket, but found that the way to the rim was always cut off.
It just seems like the ability to score and keep the offense moving continues to stymie the Eagles as they fell to the Sparkplugs 34-28 in the last game before the holiday break. The Eagles were hampered by 27 turnovers in the contest, with 16 coming in a scrappy second half.
"We have experienced players. We just don't have the experience at point guard yet. We need to develop, to mature quicker, to be mentally prepared and understand why we are doing what we are doing," Elliott said.
The biggest issue with the turnovers was the ability for Speedway to move with the basketball and get a quick bucket. Fourteen of Speedway's 34 points came in that manner, and in a contest where the points came at a premium, relatively easy buckets were killers.
The contest opened with the Sparkplugs and Eagles trading the lead throughout the first quarter as both teams settled into the game. Speedway would employ a high-pressure full court press early, but the Eagles were quick to break the traps and get the ball into the half court set, prompting the Sparkplugs to back off as the game progressed.
However, it was in the half court that South Putnam struggled. Passes were telegraphed or thrown just a little carelessly, allowing Speedway to try and break against the Eagles. The see-saw nature of the quarter saw South hold its late lead of the game after a Dean Varvel jumper had made it 9-8 with 1:39 to go in the quarter. Speedway would get the last four points of the quarter as Kevin Eggert hit a difficult lay up and Wes Shambaugh got two of the 14 breakaway baskets to close the quarter with a 12-9 advantage.
Second quarter shooting woes plagued both sides, as the 12-9 advantage only grew to 17-11 by the halftime break. Adam Masters had the only two points in the second for the Eagles, going up strong with just over two minutes gone in the quarter.
Speedway's scores came when Eggert connected with a free throw and Keenan Lewis scored twice from the line and added a put back off a missed lay up of Christian Dial after the senior had stolen an errant pass.
South Putnam would head those words well in the third quarter, though it took some time as Lewis had eight of the 11 Sparkplug points in the quarter, but all of the Speedway scores were in the first four minutes of the third.
The Eagles began to slowly chip at the lead, with Derek Dean getting four points on second chance shots, the second of which started an nine point run to end the quarter, capped with another second chance basket from Masters to see the quarter end with the Eagles only trailing by four, 28-24.
A bucket from Nathan Welty cut the lead to two with 6:41 remaining, but, as had been the case most of the game, breakaway chances led to Speedway grabbing three points in the following two minutes.
While the game was becoming scrappier by the second, Speedway's Michael Hubbard iced the game with the only three pointer made by either side with three minutes remaining in the contest to give Speedway a 34-28 lead.
Try as they might, South Putnam could not get anything going after the Welty bank shot and were held to four points in a quarter in which they seemed to have the will to win the game but couldn't hang on to the ball long enough to give themselves a chance.
Coach Elliott knows they are close to being able to fix that.
"The kids have to be able to control their attitude. They can't worry that another player is getting hot, about what the other team is doing. They need to work on controlling what they can control," Elliott said. "We have to fix the careless things. It's the half way point of the season. We've been working hard, but we have to fix these things and get better now."
Lewis led all scorers with 17 points with Eggert adding nine. Masters and Welty led the Eagles with eight each.
At South Putnam
Speedway 12 5 11 6 -- 34
South Putnam 9 2 13 4-- 28
Speedway -- Dial, 0, 0-0, 0, Eggert -- 4, 1-3, 9, Daghe -- 0, 0-0, 0, West -- 1, 1-2, 3, Rosebrough -- 0, 0-0, 0, Lewis -- 7, 3-3, 17, Hubbard -- 1, 1-3, 4, Roth -- 0, 0-0, 0, Jenkins -- 0, 0-0, 0, Shambaugh -- 1, 0-0, 2, Stanton -- 0, 0-2, 0
Three pointers -- Hubbard
South Putnam -- Gibson -- 0, 0-0, 0, Welty -- 4, 0-0, 8, Hammond, 0, 0-0, 0, Chestnut -- 0, 0-0, 0, Varvel -- 1, 0-0, 2, Freeman -- 0, 1-3, 1, Geier -- 0, 0-0, 0, Dean -- 2, 1-2, 5, Stanton -- 1, 0-2, 2, Masters -- 3, 2-2, 8
Next Game -- South Putnam (0-7, 0-2 WCC) hosts the Eagle Classic on December 29 and 30.