GREENCASTLE -- With only a few days before the New Year, North Putnam's boys' basketball team looked to close out 2010 with back to back wins with White River Valley visiting Wednesday night.
A tight contest soon developed as the Cougars and Wolverines battled back and forth for 32 minutes of play, with only free throws at the end of the contest being enough for the visitors to come away with a 51-45 win.
Both teams came out hard in the first quarter. Scoring see-sawed between the squads as both took early leads. The visitors used controlled possessions throughout the game, not taking many low quality shots while the Cougars were able to knock down the few shots they were taking.
A three by James Hedrick capped the quarter to give the Cougars a 16-13 lead. It would be their last basket for nearly a full eight minutes.
Turnovers and foul trouble forced the Cougars to the bench for the majority of the second quarter. While WRV was able to take the lead, they weren't able to break the game open.
It wasn't until the final :25 of the quarter that Payne Stewart finally knocked down a three pointer to break the scoring drought. A last second tip in by Jacob Lucas gave the Cougars some momentum entering halftime, only trailing 23-21.
The scoring pace picked back up in the third quarter. The hosts continued to struggle with turnovers but were more proficient with their shooting than the Wolverines. WRV's Cole Goodman, however, was helping the Wolverines keep the pace.
His 15 point second half became one of the major obstacles, particularly as the fourth quarter started. A quick 6-0 burst put the visitors in front by 10 at 41-31. That threatened to put the game out of reach.
Then, North Putnam head coach Nathan Martindale decided to put some pressure on.
What followed was a 8-0 counter run that closed the gap to 41-39. Both squads battled fiercely to hold the lead and following two Hedrick free throws, the Cougars tied the game at 45-45.
The fight back fell flat, however, after Travis Franklin picked up his fifth personal foul. WRV knocked down their final six free throws and sealed the contest away after North couldn't get any more shots to fall.
The effort level from the Cougars was never in question. Turnovers, on the other hand, was one of the culprits in the loss, according to Martindale.
"They got it to the pace they wanted. They wanted a slow down game. They slowed us up with a little pressure and we were able to beat the press into the half court, no problem," Martindale said.
"But when we got into the half court we made some dumb turnovers, some ill-advised turnovers that wasn't due to their pressure, it was due to our not passing very well. We got a minute in the fourth quarter where we relaxed and they got it up to 10," Martindale added.
"We shore up that three, four minutes up right there and we don't have to worry about coming back. We were able to tie it up at 45 all and they knocked down some free throws at the end to beat us. We did a lot of good things well. Defensively I thought we played pretty good."
The Cougars enter the new year with a slew of road games. The next five games will all be on the road, with only one home game in the month of January after that stretch.
Martindale, however, wasn't worried about looking that far down the road.
'We just take it game by game. I don't want to put numbers up on a record or anything like that. We just approach it. Next game is WeBo, then it's Turkey Run. After that, we move on," Martindale said.
"We've just got to get back into the gym a little bit and get some shots up. I thought we missed a lot of open shots tonight. Take care of the ball a little bit better. If we get those things done, we'll be in good shape."
At North Putnam
WRV 13 10 12 16 -- 51
North Putnam 16 5 10 14 -- 45
Shooting -- WRV 16-39; North Putnam 17-41
Free Throws -- WRV 16-26; North Putnam 7-12
Three Pointers -- WRV 3 (Ashcraft (2), Hill); North Putnam 4 (Hedrick (2), Franklin, Stewart)
WRV -- Goodman 19; Ashcraft 18; Hill 7; Hogue 6; Juhas 1
North Putnam -- Lucas 14; Hedrick 13; Franklin 6; Stewart 5; Wiltermood 3; Porter 2; Everts 2
Next game -- North Putnam travels to Western Boone Jan. 4 for a JV/Varsity double header starting at 6 p.m.