ROACHDALE -- Monday night's boys basketball contest between North Putnam and Tri-West lost a little bit of the edge that would normally have filled the NPHS gymnasium on a game night for a couple of different reasons. For one, it was a Monday night contest, but it was the sectional draw the day before that meant the game plans for both squads would have to change.
With the two teams meeting one another in the opening round of the sectionals, both the Cougars and the Bruins played with a careful eye on the amount of things they showed one another, though, in the end, Tri-West would win the contest 65-49.
"We came in with things we wanted to do. We wanted to look at ways to attack Tri-West. We didn't show everything and they didn't show everything," North Putnam head coach Nathan Martindale said.
The contest itself was a slow starter, as both North Putnam and Tri-West came out a little conservative. The Cougars kept the possession for long periods, adjusting to the various pressure packages the Bruins threw at them.
The Cougars also played a skin tight man-to-man defense that forced long range jumpers from the visitors, which kept the scoring low as Tri-West didn't connect often. After one quarter, the score was 10-8 Tri-West.
After exchanging baskets, the Bruins went on a one minute, 10-0 run to take command of the contest, only for the Cougars to answer with two quick three pointers as the contest escalated in intensity.
It nearly hit the boiling point when a call at the 3:15 mark in the period was hotly disputed.
North Putnam junior Jacob Lucas seemed to have created a jump ball situation underneath the Tri-West basket, only for a foul to be called on the Cougar center by a second official. The ensuing free throws were missed and the two teams began to trade points again.
Tempers peaked two minutes later when Payne Stewart was fouled, but then was called for a technical foul himself. From there, both teams exchanged free throws and the officials had a meeting with the players on the court. The half ended with Tri-West hanging on to a slim 30-26 lead.
The third quarter brought about a quick shift in fortunes as Tri-West opened on a 13-6 run in the opening four minutes.
North Putnam played close the rest of the way, but was unable to mount any charge against the Bruins, who walked out 65-49 winners.
"We got dead legs in the second half," Martindale said. "We lost the fire we had in the first half. We have to limit the turnovers. We had thirteen in the first half. If we cut those down, we'll be better off. We did find out we can play with Tri-West. It'll be whoever wants it more."
Tim Wiltermood and Travis Franklin got into early foul trouble and sat much of the first half. Their lack of time in the game showed up at the start of the third.
"Our guys were dragging their feet to start the second half. That's why we bring on Brock Jones off the bench. He gives us instant energy on the floor and helps us maintain our fire when we lacked the energy in the third quarter."
Though they lost this contest, the Cougars are looking forward to finishing the season on a high note.
"We've got South Putnam at the end of the week. It's Senior Night and it's a game we think we can win and should win. We want to have momentum going into the sectionals."
"The bottom line when we play Tri-West again is two things: we have to eliminate the turnovers and do better against their transition offense. If we do those things, we can go into the fourth quarter with a chance."
Asked as he was walking away about the jump ball/foul call in the second quarter, Martindale responded with little hesitation and a bit of a smile:
"It was a jump ball."
At North Putnam
Tri-West 10 20 18 17 -- 65
North Putnam 8 18 8 15 -- 49
Tri-West -- Hendersot 1, 0-0, 3, Chastain 0, 1-2, 1, Josh Pierle 4, 1-2, 9, Lowe 5, 1-1, 11, Waite 5, 6-8, 16, Keck 6, 2-6, 14, Joe Pierle 2, 6-6, 11
North Putnam -- Wiltermood 1, 0-0, 2, Hedrick 6, 7-8, 21, Adams 1, 1-2, 3, Jones 0, 2-2, 2, Hutcheson 2, 0-1, 4, Stewart 1, 4-4, 7, Lucas 4, 2-2, 10
Next Game -- North Putnam closes out the regular season, hosting South Putnam Friday