When the dust settled, Cloverdale held on for a 44-42 victory over the Cougars and will advance to the Friday semi-final game against Covenant Christian.
"This did not surprise me," CHS head coach Pat Rady said. "North Putnam has played some good basketball throughout the year. I saw them last Wednesday night against South Vermillion and I thought they were playing the best ball all year. I thought they did again tonight. They were playing very good basketball and so coach Nathan Martindale has done a tremendous job keeping them focused and completing the season."
The final quarter was back and forth battle that had both crowds cheering, both benches standing and the players breathless.
The team entered the fourth quarter knotted at 31-all and were tied 39-all with 3:33 remaining. But that's when a senior on the Cloverdale squad hit one of the biggest shots of the season.
With 3:13 left in the contest, Jordan Hayden connected on his third three-pointer of the game to break the tie and give the Clovers some momentum.
However, the Cougars wouldn't go away without a fight. James Hedrick hit 1-of-2 free throws to pull the Cougars within two and pulled them within two once more after Cloverdale guard Donavan Scisney scored, making the score 44-42 with 18 seconds left.
Scisney had a chance to ice the game with 14 seconds remaining, but his free throw bounced of the rim and the Cougars called timeout. After the regroup, North Putnam tried to find the shot it wanted, but with 2.9 seconds left, Hayden committed a foul.
The Cougars set up their final shot and hit Hedrick as he curled around to the top of the key. The North Putnam senior set, got the shot off before the buzzer, but it found the back of the iron before falling to the court.
Cougar's head coach Nathan Martindale acknowledged how tough the loss was.
"It's a hard send off for these seniors," Martindale said of the loss. "They've put a lot of time in, they've put a lot of time and effort into tonight, we just came up a little short."
He also said they got in a little bit of a hurry toward the end.
"I think we kind of got a little impatient," Martindale said. "We got that one-point lead, I really wanted to take care of that basketball there and we had some untimely miscues and they were able to get some good looks for Hayden. Which is what we didn't want and as a senior does, he knocked down some shots there for them.
"But our guys battled back and fought hard. We got James a pretty good look there at the end. It worked in our favor to give him what we wanted -- I think everybody in the county knows that's the best guy we've got on our team as far as scoring goes," Martindale said.
The Clovers opened the game with an 11-4 lead after one quarter, but the Cougars clawed their way back. They outscored the Clovers 19-12 in the second quarter to tie the game at the half 23-all on a bucket from Hedrick with 30 seconds left.
After the break, Hayden hit his first two buckets of the game, both three-pointers, to score six of the Clovers' eight third quarter. Likewise, Jacob Lucas scored six of the Cougars' eight points in the quarter.
It was a balanced attack that helped lift the Clovers to victory and it was their grit that caught the attention of their coach.
"I'm pleased with our players," Rady said. "Our players seem to find a way to win tonight. Some things that always go well for us and we missed some shots, had some turnovers that have not been a characteristics this past week. They were there tonight, but we kind of refused to lose and I think that was a good sign for us."
The Cougars suffered a loss exactly a week before on the same court and following the game Martindale was displeased with the effort his team gave. Tuesday saw an effort from the Cougars that was much improved and Martindale couldn't agree more.
"It was phenomenal," Martindale said. "The guys let it all on the line and that makes it harder when you loose, when you've given it your all. And I've been in the position as a player before and there's not much you can say to them to really make sure they understand that sometimes the ball bounces your way and sometimes it doesn't.
"These kids just gave it everything. This is going to be a hard one to swallow, but we'll move forward," he added.
Rady noted that the crowd was treated to a great game to start the tournament and was pleased his team was lucky enough to come out on top.
"We gave the crowd a heck of a ballgame and we were just fortunate enough that we came out two points ahead," Rady said.
Cloverdale will face Covenant Christian Friday at 6 p.m. at South Putnam.
At South Putnam
Class 2A No. 46 Sectional
Cloverdale 11 12 8 13 -- 44
North Putnam 4 19 8 11 -- 42
Cloverdale -- Hayden 11, Fidler 11, Scisney 8, Strunk 8, Williams 6 Totals: 16-34 FG, 8-11 FT, 44 TP.
North Putnam -- Hedrick 14, Lucas 9, Stewart 8, Franklin 4, Everts 4, Porter 2, Wiltermood 1. Totals: 16-42 FG, 10-14 FT, 42 TP.
Next game -- Cloverdale will face Covenant Christian Friday at 6 p.m. at South Putnam.