North Putnam hosted South Putnam Friday in a game that showcased splendid play from seniors on both teams. However, it was the Cougars' senior night and their duo stole the show. North Putnam defeated the Eagles 71-59. The win snapped a 12-game losing streak for North Putnam.
Cougar seniors Brock Jones and Kyle Adams contributed 26 of the team's 71 points and head coach Nathan Martindale was pleased the team could give the seniors a great win to close their playing careers before a home crowd.
The Cougars were behind much of the first half, due in large part to the powerful play of South Putnam center Adam Masters. Masters owned the court in the first half, pouring in 18 points to keep the Eagles in front.
"He played very well; he played like a senior should play," head coach Micah Elliott commented. "He just played a very good game and a lot of credit goes to the guys that got him the ball. The guards did a tremendous job of passing the ball and taking care of it. We were very patient at times and I think we got a little impatient on some occasions, where if we were more patient we could have spread out a lead we had right before the half."
As Elliott indicated, North Putnam mounted a charge as the second quarter was ticking away and a last minute put-back by Travis Franklin gave the Cougars a 25-24 lead and all the momentum they would need to blow the game open in the second half.
In the second half, North Putnam extended their lead to 43-38 after three quarters and put Masters on the bench with his fourth foul at the 2:51 mark, taking away South's main offense threat of the evening.
North Putnam began the fourth quarter strong and found their fortunes only improved when Masters, recently brought off the bench, was sent packing after picking up his fifth foul on a questionable blocking charge.
Jones hit his third three-pointer of the evening, Adams connected on three free throws down the stretch, but it was junior James Hedrick who delivered the most exciting moment of the night.
With 1:43 on the clock, Hedrick received the ball at half court; stutter stepped, took it to the hoop and slammed it home, which resulted in the Cougars cheer block exploding off their seats. He followed it up with a monstrous block on the next Eagle possession.
"It was something with James; he's just scratching the surface of his potential," Martindale said. "We knew that could be something that happens, so when he did it, that doesn't get a smile on anyone's face more than me because I know how much this kid's worked. It pumped up a lot of people on our team -- that's just a team boost for us.
"That's what he can do for us. It was good to see, but these two seniors came out with fire and I can't say enough about what they've been for us -- just tremendous," he added.
The Cougars were able to close the game by hitting their free throw and walk away with a 71-59 victory.
Hedrick led North Putnam with 16, followed by Jones with 15 and Adams and Franklin with 11 each.
Masters had a game-high 24 points for the Eagles, with Cameron Chestnut adding 13 and Rob Gibson 11.
For Elliott, he saw some good things from his team in spite of the loss. His team is maturing, and with sectional only a few days away, Elliott is happy to see those good things.
"I thought a lot of guys started figuring things out tonight," he said. "Defensively, we gave up too many points, we can't give up that many points and we didn't when Adam was on the floor. He's a presence in the lane -- he just takes things away. He might not get the blocked shot, but he definitely limits people to one shot and it's easier to get in and rebound because he takes up space and allows our other guys to get in there and rebound.
"I thought we had some good stuff tonight," he continued. "There are things to build on before sectional. This is the best we've played on the road all year. In the locker room, it hurt a little more than it has in the past and it's the way it should feel -- it's the way it should feel every time. Our guys aren't' happy.
"We played well enough to win tonight, but sometimes we had those little bit of lapses where we hurt ourselves, and I'm going to give North Putnam credit, they knocked down some shots. They took care of the ball for the most part. They could have been down at the half, but it was a game of runs," Elliott said.
Following the contest, Martindale described how is team settled itself down after a shaky start and was obviously pleased with the win, but he was focused on the task that remained before his team -- sectional.
"We came out a little bit on edge, a little excited -- just a little bit too keyed up I guess, but once we settled ourselves down, that's probably the best second half we've played all year. We did some good things offensively, defensively -- we were helping each other out and boarding -- we were just doing a lot of good things tonight. For us, it's a good team win and now we celebrate tonight and tomorrow it's back to work and getting ready for sectional," he commented.
Elliott summed up the game as a great precursor before the team's match up with first round sectional opponent Covenant Christian.
"It's a good game before our sectional draw," Elliott commented. "Covenant Christian does a lot of the same things. They shoot the ball extremely well, so we're going to work on that and prepare and we're going to try to go in and knock them off. We're going to be playing at home, playing in front of a great crowd -- the atmosphere is going to be good."
North Putnam will take on Tri-West Tuesday at 7:30 p.m., while South Putnam will battle Covenant Christian Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at the South Putnam Class 2A Sectional.
At North Putnam
South Putnam 13 11 14 21 -- 59
North Putnam 10 15 18 28 -- 71
South Putnam (59) -- Masters 24, Chestnut 13, Gibson 11, Welty 8, Freeman 3. Totals: 22-46 FG, 10-18 FT, 59 TP.
North Putnam -- Hedrick 16, Jones 15, Adams 11, Franklin 11, Stewart 8, Lucas 4, Hutcheson 2, Wiltermood 2, Porter 2. Totals: 22-50, 19-31 FT, 71 TP.
Next game -- North Putnam will take on Tri-West Tuesday at 7:30 p.m., while South Putnam will battle Covenant Christian Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at the South Putnam Class 2A Sectional.