Tuesday's contest saw the Eagles come out and play the aggressor and reap the benefits, taking down North Putnam 58-42. But as well as South Putnam played, the Cougars refused to give in and kept things close in the early going.
South Putnam head coach Micah Elliott beamed as he stood on the court following the contest.
"It feels so good and I'm so happy for our kids -- I'm just so happy for them," Elliott said. "They've fought and they've battled all year and they've done what we've asked them to do without questioning. We put four quarters together tonight and we got us a county win and got us a conference win.
"We go into sectional with a little bit of momentum. We defended our homecourt tonight. Everything was positive tonight," he added.
South Putnam led by as many as five early, but timely shots from North Putnam's James Hedrick cut the lead to three after one at 10-7.
That would also be the deficit the Cougars faced going ingot the half after grabbing its first lead with 2:23 left in the half. A few back and fourth baskets later, the Eagles were able to hold on for a three-point advantage, 20-17, at the break.
South utilized balanced scoring, with Justin Bumgardner leading the way with six points. Dean Varvl, Brayden Freeman and Rob Gibson each chipped in four, but it was on the other end of the court where Elliott felt the team make the biggest difference.
"The best thing is we played defense tonight. You hold a team right around 40 points and you're going to put yourself in position to win. I want the kids to understand it wasn't what we did offensively tonight; it's what we did defensively. So, I've very, very proud of them," he said.
The Eagles picked up where they left off in the third quarter. After Hedrick tied the ballgame at 22-all, South Putnam ran off seven unanswered points, with Cory Stanton providing five of said points. South Putnam rode that momentum to a 10-point lead after three quarter at 36-26.
North Putnam hoped to make a charge late, but a resilient Eagles squad had their minds set on coming away with a win and that's precisely what they did. They knocked down 15-of-17 free throws in the final period to come away with its 58-42 win.
Freeman led the Eagles with 13 points on the night. Stanton and Seth Hammond chipped in 11 points each, followed by Bumgardner with 10 and Varvel with eight.
The Cougars were led by Hedrick who led all scorers with 24 points. North Putnam head coach Nathan Martindale was blunt when speaking of his team's play following the contest.
"It was real simple, they wanted the basketball, they out-hustled us more, they played with more energy -- more passion and we were out there just going through the motions," he said. "We were lifeless. Guys just expected to walk in here and win and you're not going to do that.
"This is too much of a pride game and guys just didn't react like we wanted to win the basketball game," he continued. "And that was the case the entire night. It didn't matter what we said as coaches, if the kids don't go out there and play with energy and play with heart and play with passion, you're not going to get anything done.
"Tonight we didn't play with any passion, with any heart and so it's disappointing," he added.
Martindale took his share of the responsibility, but acknowledged it was up to the players when they step on the court to make things happen.
"I'll take responsibility for some of that, maybe not getting my guys ready enough to play," he confessed. "But ultimately when it's time to get on that rectangular floor, guys have got to want it and South Putnam wanted it more than us. Period, end of story."
North Putnam hosts South Vermillion tonight at 6 p.m. while South Putnam's next game will be against Tri-West in the Class 2A No. 46 sectional.
At South Putnam
North Putnam 7 10 9 16 -- 42
South Putnam 10 10 16 22 -- 58
North Putnam -- Hedrick 24, Wiltermood 6, Franklin 4, Stewart 4, Everts 2, Lucas 2. Totals: 16-45 FG, 7-9 FT, 42 TP.
South Putnam -- Freeman 13, Hammond 11, Stanton 11, Bumgardner 10, Varvel 8, Gibson 5. Totals: 17-43 FG, 21-25 FT, 58 TP.
Next game -- North Putnam hosts South Vermillion tonight at 6 p.m. while South Putnam's next game will be against Tri-West in the Class 2A No. 46 sectional.