Greencastle won its second straight Putnam County Classic over the Eagles 63-39. The difference in the game came down to free throws. Greencastle outpaced the Eagles 24-1 at the line and South Putnam head coach Troy Burgess acknowledged that fact after the game.
"You're not going to win many games when your opponent shoots 34 free throws and you shoot three," Burgess said. "We had one more field goal than they did and they shot 31 more free throws than we did. I know we don't play defense very well sometimes and I know we don't move our feet sometimes, but you're not going to win many games when your opponent out-shoots you by 31 free throws."
Despite the discrepancy in free throws, South Putnam found itself in the game at the break, having knocked down three more field goals than the Tiger Cubs. However, Greencastle looked at what didn't work in the first half and made the right adjustment, especially on defense, and came out in the second half with a purpose.
"I thought South Putnam did a really nice job in the first half keeping it at their pace," GHS head coach Troy Greenlee said. "We just couldn't knock in that big shot to kind of get us going. At halftime, I just kind of mentioned do we want to do something different defensively. It wasn't like we were horrible in the first half defensively, it's just that we weren't able to get any deflections and things like that.
"When we started out the second half, we started out in zone and have a couple good possessions with it and it was one of those things where we kept with it. I thought it kind of gave them some problems," he added.
The Tiger Cubs opened the second half clinging to a four-point advantage, but their move defensively allowed them to build their lead, while limited the Eagles' chances.
Greencastle' Hayden Stuckwisch connected on two long bombs to power the Tiger Cub offense with Jesse Tesmer adding four point down low. South Putnam got a lift from Alex Kelly off the bench who scored four points. After three quarters, the Tiger Cubs took a 38-30 advantage and clearly won the battle of momentum.
With South Putnam still within striking distance, GHS senior Nick Hutcheson scored eight points in the final quarter, with Nick Gilliam adding seven points off the bench. Defensively, Greencastle stuck with the zone and it continued to cause the Eagles difficulties.
"To be honest with you we haven't worked a lot on our zone so it was one of those things, we tried it," Greenlee said. "You have to give our kids a lot of credit for playing hard in that second half and we were able to get some momentum going. And I thought we did a nice job of sustaining it."
The Tiger Cubs continued to pick up the pace and earned 19 trips to the free throw line in the final quarter and outscored the Eagles 25-9 to seize its second consecutive Putnam County Classic championship.
Nick Hutcheson led GHS with 21 points, followed by Stuckwisch with 17 and Tesmer with 10.
"I'm real happy for our seniors," Greenlee said. "They put a lot of time and effort into this -- coming in early in the mornings, a lot of time in the off-season. And this is why you play, you play for championships. We're really happy to get that."
It was literally a tale of two halves for the Eagles. In the first half, South Putnam was the aggressor and stayed point for point with Tiger Cubs, even holding a 12-11 edge after one quarter. But they lost that edge in the second half and Burgess said it was a simple fact of settling instead of pushing the issue.
"Especially in the first half, I thought we played well -- we played hard," he said. "We did a good job on the boards. They have a couple big kids that are very athletic. I thought the first half we did a really nice job on the boards, keeping them off the board. I also thought we did a good job in the first half attacking.
"In the second half we became too passive. We settled to dribble around the perimeter and we settled to shoot the 22-footers and we became too passive," he added.
Burgess also said that he along with the team needs to take a look in the mirror and find out how to move on from here.
Greenlee's Tiger Cubs sit at 3-0 on the season and are doing a lot of things well on the court. Not only are they shooting well, but players are tipping balls, making diving plays for loose balls and taking the court night in and night out with a sense of something to prove.
Asked how it made him feel to have his team playing so well early in the season, Greenlee was cautious in his answer.
"It feels good in some ways, but I think as a coach you're always looking at what you need to get better at," he said. "You're always looking at the things you don't do well and figuring out either how to hide those or trying to figure out how to get better. So that's kind of where my thought process is because I know we have the potential to be a really good team. It's just a matter of how much time and effort do these guys want to put in to preparing for what we do and making every day in practice a very important practice.
"I'm very happy, but hopefully not satisfied. These guys aren't either with where we are," he added.
Greencastle (3-0) will travel to Cloverdale at 7:30 p.m., while the Eagles (2-2) will travel to Cascade at 7:30 p.m. next Friday.
Putnam County Classic
South Putnam 12 9 9 9 -- 39
Greencastle 11 14 13 25 -- 63
South Putnam -- Moore 8, Kelly 6, Bumgardner 6, Hammond 5, Gibson 4, Arnold 4, Pell 3, Chestnut 2, Gorham 1. Totals: 18-49 FG, 1-3 FT, 39 TP.
Greencastle -- Hutcheson 21, Stuckwisch 17, Tesmer 10, Gilliam 7, Haussin 3, Huber 3, Muncie 2. Totals: 17-47 FG, 24-34 FT, 63 TP.
Next game -- Greencastle (3-0) will travel to Cloverdale at 7:30 p.m., while the Eagles (2-2) will travel to Cascade at 7:30 p.m. next Friday.