ROACHDALE -- Still reeling from a track meet the night before with Monrovia, the North Putnam boys' basketball team had to come back on Saturday night to try and deal with Fountain Central on a night where a game of a different sport had the attention of many.
Needless to say, the color blue was a rather prominent one around the gymnasium, though it was the Cougars who were feeling blue afterwards, dropping their fifth straight contest in a 57-49 loss to the Mustangs.
Fountain Central started off the contest quickly by winning the tip then setting up Ryan Carver for a three pointer. Within two minutes, the Mustangs had jumped out to a 9-2 lead and concern grew for the Cougars, who, still missing Tim Wiltermood and Brock Jones, saw Payne Stewart come up gimpy after falling awkwardly, though he was able to return shortly.
North couldn't seem to buy a bucket early, as several shots went in and out, allowing the Mustangs to take control of the opening exchanges. Andrew Stockdale got eight of his game-high 17 points in the middle of the quarter in leading the Mustangs to a 22-13 lead at the end of one.
Cougars Coach Nathan Martindale was not particularly happy about those buckets.
"After the first quarter we made adjustments. We let him get high and gave him a drop step to get in close in the first. We shouldn't have let him get started," Martindale said.
With the adjustments in place, the Cougars were able to take away Stockdale in the second quarter.
The problem became a reprisal of the Friday night contest, as the game turned into a back and forth sprinting contest, though neither side was able to make the most of their opportunities early on.
The Cougars were able to cut the lead in half to 22-18 in the opening three minutes of the period, before the Mustangs finally snapped back. They drove into the lane on fast breaks and set plays to cause problems for the home side.
"Their guards were very quick and gave us problems with their speed and pressure. We were tired and exposed by their speed," Martindale explained.
The Cougars kept it close, heading into halftime down only six, 32-26. But when play resumed, it looked much like the start of the first.
"We played well in some spurts, but came out flat to start both the first and third quarter," Martindale said. "We went through the motions. We weren't ready to play."
North could only muster four points in the third period, and though the Mustangs were not able to really get going on offense either, the lead was 11 heading into the fourth quarter at 41-30.
It then became a driving contest as both Cougar and Falcon guards went gung-ho towards the basket, with James Hedrick and Stewart of the Cougars, who finished with 16 and 11 respectively, matching the play of Brody Sowers and Tanner Pierce of the Mustangs.
In the end, the trading of baskets wasn't enough for the Cougars to catch the Mustangs as they went home 57-49 winners.
"For us, we need to find consistency in our play. We need people to step up and do the little things," Martindale said. "We missed bunnies and free throws we should have made. These are the little things we have gotta do and we didn't tonight."
With Cloverdale looming next Friday, North would like to get a bit of revenge for their loss during the county tourney, and Martindale was still upbeat about the squad.
"We'll be getting some guys back this week. A couple of guys thought they might have the flu and we're still dealing with some injuries. We've already played Cloverdale, so we know them and what they will try to do. We just need players to step up and execute."
At North Putnam
Fountain Central 22 10 9 16 -- 57
North Putnam 13 13 4 19 -- 49
Fountain Central -- Kerestes 1, 1-3, 4, Carver 3, 7-10, 14, Bowlus 2, 0-0, 4, Sowers 2, 3-4, 7, Pierce 3, 3-4 9, Clark 1, 0-0, 2, Stockdale 7, 3-4, 17
Three Pointers -- Kerestes, Carver
North Putnam -- Hedrick 7, 0-1, 16, Franklin 2, 0-0, 6, Porter 2, 2-2, 6, Adams 3, 0-2, 6, Hutcheson 1, 0-0, 2, Stewart 5, 1-4, 11, Lucas 1, 0-0, 2
Three Pointers -- Hedrick (2), Franklin (2)
Next game -- North Putnam (3-9, 0-2 WCC) hosts Cloverdale on January 22.