GREENCASTLE -- There was hope in the air at South Putnam High School Friday night. Hope that a first win was on the way.
Homecoming brought in one of the largest crowds of the year. The girls' squad knocked off Cloverdale in one of their best games of the year. The boys kept the Clovers in check through one half of basketball.
But a change in style helped Cloverdale shake off a sluggish start and dashed the hopes of South Putnam fans and players with a 45-30 win that extended the Clovers' unbeaten run to four games.
The first quarter was a tight, quick moving, yet patient display from both squads as similar styles of play meant that neither the Clovers nor the Eagles could out maneuver one another.
As tight as it was, with Cloverdale leading 10-7 after one period, South Putnam threatened to take a sizable lead into halftime.
Completely stymieing the Clovers' offense, South held a 14-10 lead with a little over a minute of basketball to play in the first half and looked as though they might shut the visitors out in the second period of play.
An under the radar substitution in the form of Cody Schorer changed the entire complexion of the game.
Schorer hit a three-pointer that halted the hosts' momentum cold, and a late foul and free throw by Mitch Williams allowed the Clovers to tie the score heading into halftime.
In the second half, Cloverdale picked up the tempo by pressing South Putnam and sped up the offense, putting pressure on the Eagles to keep up the pace.
By forcing turnovers, the Clovers built up a seven-point advantage heading into the fourth quarter. Anytime the hosts tried to make a move, Cloverdale hit back instantly, never allowing the Eagles a chance to claim their first win of the year.
In the process the Clovers climbed over the .500 mark for the first time since they were 1-0 at the beginning of the season. The game itself was one that had Cloverdale head coach Pat Rady worried from start to finish.
"South Putnam likes to play the same way we like to play, in the half-court. We talked as a coaching staff and to the players at halftime that, 'We're playing right into their hands and they're playing right into our hands,' so we had to change it to make it a full court game," Rady said.
"We haven't played that way for some time because we are more of a half court type team now, so I was very proud of our players of how they were able to adjust, to come out in the second half and make it a full court game," Rady added.
The momentum swing at halftime, coupled with the change in style, helped break down a stubborn Eagle squad and Rady acknowledged the fight of the home team.
"I think it was very important, the last four points that tied it helped us because we missed some good shots and we weren't playing as sharp. But that credit also goes to South Putnam. They had a great game plan and came out and executed it extremely well and that's why we had to do something at halftime to change," Rady said.
"I can't give the players as much credit as I'd like. It was on our coaching staff and the players to make that adjustment in the second half."
South Putnam head coach Micah Elliot oversaw the Eagle game plan, but also noted when the opportunity came, the Eagles didn't grab it.
"We were focused on what we needed to do. We had a game plan from the start, executed it well in the first half. We play the same style as Cloverdale so in the first half, it was kind of a chess match," Elliot said.
"We just felt as though we let an opportunity slide by. Aside from those four points, we held a team to ten total points in a half of basketball. We just got a little lazy mentally and we gave up a couple of buckets."
"Coach (Rady) changed things at halftime and tried to speed things up, which is good because they had to change some things. We were ready for that but we just didn't execute our press offense very well."
"Give credit to Coach Rady. He does a great job with his team, and in coaching in general, that he makes adjustments and the kids made the adjustments with him," Elliot added.
Knowing that the zero in the win column still lingers on for at least another 24 hours, Elliot was certain that their will be one at some point, possibly when the Eagles play Riverton Parke on Saturday.
"We're going to get over the hump. Right now, we're turning the corner. We've played some good teams here and we've played them tough, but it's those small little things," Elliot said.
"We're learning every game and we will get over the hump. The kids continue to be positive, they continue to work hard and we'll learn how to win and we're going to be a team that no one wants to play in sectionals."
Rady and the Clovers have a full week before hosting Turkey Run next Saturday. In order to continue their four game win streak, it will be a week full of work.
"You've got to keep working on all the aspects of the game. I think we've got to knock down some of the shots we're missing. I think we've got to be a little sharper on the free throw line, continue to rebound well and control the basketball," Rady said.
"Each day, each week, you try to improve upon all aspects of the game and you try to become a total team. I thought we had good balance in the scoring. This game was won as a team. We're progressing, we're becoming more and more of a team," Rady added.
"I'm very proud of the players and how they've come together. I think we're getting good team chemistry and a win like this is a big plus for us."
At South Putnam
Cloverdale 10 4 16 15 - 45
South Putnam 7 7 7 9 - 30
Cloverdale -- Hayden 10, Williams 9, Scisney 8, Fidler 6, Strunk 5, Schorer 4, Burdette 3
South Putnam -- Hammond 7, Bumgardner 5, Varvel 5, Sa. Arnold 5, Se. Arnold 5, Freeman 3
Next Games -- South Putnam (0-14, 0-4 WCC) travels to Riverton Parke for a JV/Varsity doubleheader Saturday starting at 6:00 PM. Cloverdale (8-7, 3-2 WCC) hosts Turkey Run next Saturday.