WEST TERRE HAUTE -- Greencastle's girls' basketball squad played their third and final game of the Hi-99 Tip-Off Tournament Saturday afternoon against South Vermillion in a contest that, while short of spectators, wasn't short on action.
Down 12 to the Wildcats after three quarters of play, the Tiger Cubs rallied in the fourth quarter, ultimately falling by a 47-45 score.
The two teams traded the lead off for the majority of the first quarter before two late Wildcat three-pointers gave South Vermillion a five point advantage heading into the second quarter.
The lead grew to as large as seven before the Tiger Cubs went on a 9-1 run over a two minute spell, with Jessi Covert knocking down a three to give Greencastle their last lead in the game at 19-18.
South Vermillion scored the final four points of the half to lead by three and would extend that lead after opening the third period on an 8-2 run.
The squads traded points back and forth through the remainder of the period, but the Wildcats entered the fourth on a positive note after Morgan Samuelson notched a three pointer at the buzzer to give South Vermillion a twelve point cushion.
That shot would be the last the Wildcats hit for the next four and a half minutes as the Tiger Cubs defense ratcheted up the pressure, while on offense Greencastle all but erased the deficit, trailing 39-37.
South Vermillion held on, knocking down six of eight free throws in the final two minutes to keep the Tiger Cubs at bay as Greencastle just couldn't quite get back to even before time ran out.
Taylor Pruitt again led the Tiger Cubs in scoring, with 10 of her game high 22 coming in the frantic fourth quarter fight back. The effort from the squad in that period had Greencastle head coach Brad Key looking for some answers.
"We started off really slow. We're trying to mix things up and see where we fit in and what works well for us. We didn't have a lot of enthusiasm in the first half, and that's on me. We weren't as prepared as we could be," Key admitted.
"I thought in the last four minutes of the game, we played all-out and if I could have gotten them to play like that the entire game, I think it would have been a different story."
"We had nine people score, which is impressive. We still have to figure out who are best five or six or seven are, and as a coach I need to do a better job of that," Key said.
"Give credit to South Vermillion. They played hard. They crashed the boards hard. We have to do a better job rebounding if we're wanting to play with teams," Key added.
The squad needed a change in emphasis in the fourth quarter and Key said the two guards in the game provided that spark.
"Callan Taylor and Alex Basile did a really good job working at the top of the zone putting pressure on the ball while at the same time we didn't give up lay-ups like we were earlier. Callan Taylor worker her butt off and we did a great job there," Key said.
After three days and three games, Key said he had a better idea of the squad's capabilities as well as things that need to be worked on as Greencastle plays Southmont Tuesday and prepares for the Putnam County Tournament next weekend.
"We've got to do a better job rebounding. Southmont has some size that will give us fits inside. These three games have shown us that we have some freshmen who can step in and give us some quality minutes," Key said.
"We need to shoot free throws better. We were seven for thirteen, which is the third game in a row that we've been below 60 percent. That's a thing with concentration. We're still a young team and we made some young team mistakes out there.
"We've had to rely on our seniors, making sure they were directing out there. Today, it felt like it took them a little time before they started leading. They're in new roles, too," Key added.
The county tournament is going to be more difficult this year. We have to be on our game if we want to defend our title, as they say. We've got to make sure we're playing the defense we want and we'll get there.
At West Vigo High School
Hi-99 Tip-Off Tournament -- 5th Place Game
South Vermillion 11 11 17 8 -- 47
Greencastle 6 13 8 18 -- 45
South Vermillion -- Samuelson 22, Cheesewright 9, Lubovich 6, Kirby 5, Crouch 3, Riggen 2
Greencastle -- Pruitt 22, Earl 5, Taylor 4, Beck 4, Covert 3, Wainman 2, Basile 2, Smiley 2, Lenihan 1