GREENCASTLE -- North Putnam's girls' basketball team will enter the Putnam County Tournament on a two-game winning streak after a stingy defensive effort earned them a 44-27 win over Covington Tuesday night.
The Cougars blanketed the Trojans early in the ball game with a full court press that would not allow the visitors to even get so much as a shot off until the 3:20 mark in the first quarter. Five steals in the opening period led to nine points as the hosts took an early 17-2 lead.
Covington met much less resistance in the second quarter and tried to claw back into the game, outscoring the Cougars 12-5 in the second quarter and moved into halftime down just eight points at 22-14.
The Trojans opened up the third quarter with a basket that cut the Cougar lead to six, but that would be as close as Covington would get for the rest of the contest. The hosts turned the defensive pressure back up, holding the visitors to just four more points the rest of the period and doubled their halftime lead to 16 by the end of the frame.
It was then a case of North Putnam working down the clock and keeping the Trojans at bay, trading baskets before the final buzzer sounded and the Cougars went above .500 with the win.
Afterwards, Cougar head coach Jim Brothers recognized the work of his defense in the game, which created 27 Trojan turnovers, 10 in the first quarter alone.
"We wanted to come out and get off to a good start. We played with a lot of energy at the start of the game. Second quarter we changed the defense, maybe a coaching error," Brothers said.
"We changed our defense and I think we lost some of our aggressiveness. We kind of stood around and played a more traditional zone defense and they had a couple of kids that stood out and got them back into the game.
"Second half we came back to the press and we were more active in the zone. Even when we didn't press we were more active. We knew where their shooters were at and did a better job," Brothers added.
The Cougars' own 23 turnovers was a bit of a sticking point, if only an early season problem.
"Yeah, it's the tempo and the early season games. We've been playing a lot of freshmen a lot of minutes out there and the kids are getting used to being varsity players," Brothers said.
"We lost three kids last year that ate up a lot of minutes for us and we have a lot of kids that are inexperienced playing basketball out there right now and you've got to let them get their feet wet and get relaxed and comfortable out there."
The win will propel the Cougars onward to the Putnam County Tournament where they are set to square off against the hosts South Putnam in the second game. The Cougars won last year's meeting 49-39, but little will be taken for granted when the county rivals clash Thursday.
"Right now, early in the season, any game and what we'll work on in practice is taken care of on the court at game time. It's always a good battle. I know Debbie [Steffy] is going to have her kids ready. The emotions are high, causes it to be ugly basketball sometimes but people rise to the occasion and people play well."
At North Putnam
Covington 2 12 6 7 -- 27
North Putnam 17 5 14 8 -- 44
North Putnam -- Mac. Asbell 15; Me. Robinson 13; Lucas 9; Pinney 5; Frye 2
Covington -- Coffman 8; Larsen 6; Myers 4; Hegg 4; Minick 2; Kagels 2; Cates 1
Next game -- North Putnam plays South Putnam in the second game of the Putnam County Tournament Thursday at South Putnam High School at 8 p.m.