After trailing for most of the game, Greencastle pulled out a thrilling last-second win over Crawfordsville, 67-65.
The win marked the first time in four years the Tiger Cubs (1-0) have been on the winning side of things when facing the Athenians (0-1).
This is the first year for junior Hayden Stuckwisch at point guard for GHS, and from the looks of things Wednesday, he's way ahead of the learning curve. The junior not only was second on the team in scoring, he also gave Greencastle fans one more thing to be thankful for as they sat down for their Thanksgiving feasts.
The Tiger Cubs battled back to erase a five-point lead the Athenians had entering the fourth quarter to tie the game at 65-all with 39 seconds remaining.
Senior Nick Hutcheson was hacked while putting in his 20th point of the night, but was unable to convert at the line, keeping the score tied and seemingly sending the game to overtime unless Crawfordsville was able to pull out a miracle.
Instead Greencastle pulled out some last-minute heroics to get the win.
With the seconds ticking away and Crawfordsville setting for the final shot, Stuckwisch did what most seasoned point guards wouldn't think of doing -- he made a play on the ball. Calculating the risk and reward, Stuckwisch poked the ball away at mid-court and raced to the basket before being fouled hard by Crawfordsville's Caleb Rasmussen.
The officials discussed whether to award two shots or hit Rasmussen with an intentional foul. They chose to give Stuckwisch two free tosses and that's all the junior needed. With 1.4 seconds on the clock, Stuckwisch strode to the line, took a deep breath and promptly knocked down both shots to give Greencastle the 67-65 victory.
"He (Stuckwisch) made some big plays for us and that's the thing we have to have him do," Greencastle coach Troy Greenlee said. "Overall it was great effort with our guys. This first game of the year -- you never know what you're going to get. You work on things and you have an idea of things you need to do to be a good team.
"When it comes down to it, you just have to make plays at the end and our kids were able to do that on both ends of the floor," Greenlee added.
The Tiger Cubs began the game strong offensively as they scored 19 points to open the game, with Hutcheson leading the way with eight. However, the GHS defense allowed the Athenians to put up 18, something Greenlee wasn't too happy with.
"I tell you what, starting off with a win is great," he said. "We hadn't beaten these guys in I think three years and the thing we talked a lot about tonight and even during the week was getting off to a better start. We did get off to a lot better start offensively, we scored 19, but I think they had 18, so not a great performance defensively I think all the way around.
"I thought Rasmussen, who's a really good player, we just let him get to the paint way too many times. And overall we let them get to the paint too many times and that's something as a defense, that's one of the main things you try not to do," Greenlee added.
In the second quarter, Crawfordsville neutralized Hutcheson, holding the big man scoreless, and outscored the Tiger Cubs 16-11 to seize a 34-30 halftime lead. The Athenians continued to give Hutcheson fits in the third quarter and built their lead to five, 51-46, entering the final quarter.
As the fourth quarter wore on, it looked as if Greencastle would once again be nipped by the Athenians, who were able to answer every run they put together.
Things changed after Greenlee called a timeout.
"I just thought their body language was pretty negative. I said 'Guys, there's three and a half minutes left.' We were down six or seven, but I was really proud of the way the kids came out and just got after people. We made enough plays to win. It wasn't pretty at times, but you know what, we'll take a win right now, no question," Greenlee said.
Crawfordsville answered with Shad Conrad hitting two shots at the line, making the score 64-61 in favor of the Athenians. Following a Hutcheson basket, Conrad hit another free toss to put CHS up 65-63 with less than a minute remaining.
Hutcheson fought his way through the stifling Athenian defense to get back on track and tied the game at 65, but was unable to convert, thus setting the stage for Stuckwisch's last second magic act.
Hutcheson led the way for GHS with 20 points, followed by Stuckwisch with 18. Brad Haussin and Jesse Tesmer chipped in eight points each, with Nick Gilliam adding five, Trevor Huber four and Nate Chrsity three points for Greencastle.
Greenlee acknowledged the fact Crawfordsville was able to bottle up the middle and keep Hutcheson from scoring at will and said the team will have to see what the Athenians did and make some adjustments.
"We're going to have to look at the film and figure out where we go from here," he said. "Take the things we did well and hopefully keep improving on them and maybe adjust some things to figure out ways to get the ball on the inside.
"I still think, and I think we saw it tonight at times, I still think we have much better guard play this year as far as being able to shoot it from the perimeter," he added. "Those shots from the perimeter can be great, but then they can also, if you fall in love with them, they can really be detrimental. So we have to do a great job of understanding the situation in the game, what we have to do, where we need to get the ball and be able to make good decisions."
Up next for Greencastle will be a showdown with North Putnam in the second game of the Putnam County Tournament next Friday. The game is slated for an 8:15 tip.
Crawfordsville 18 16 17 14 -- 65
Greencastle 19 11 16 21 -- 67
Crawfordsville -- Rasmussen 16, Conrad 14, Horner 12, Jackson 7, Zurawski 6, Lewis 6, Pursell 4.
Greencastle -- Hutcheson 20, Stuckwisch 18, Haussin 8, Tesmer 8, Gilliam 5, Huber 4, Christy 3.