In its final game before the holiday break, the Cougars used a big second quarter to hold court over the Panthers for three and half quarters. But Riverton Parke made things interesting down the stretch.
As with any sport, defense is what it's all about. It limits your opponents and can lift up an offense and that's what happened to the Cougars Saturday.
"Before the game, in the locker room, we were talking about having that defensive mentality and I think we came out with an edge," Cougars' head coach Nathan Martindale said. "We came out with an edge on the defensive end and that's where it all started for us. We really got ourselves going and we held them to 49 points and that's what we have capable in those guys.
"We struggled with that to start the season, but I really think they bought into the defensive mindset tonight. They played with heart and passion and you could just tell they just wanted it."
North Putnam entered the final quarter with an 11-point lead, 46-35 and looked well on its way to an easy first win of the season. However, a feisty Riverton Parke squad and the fouling out of starting point guard Tim Wiltermood with 3:19 left allowed the Panthers to claw their way back into the game.
With a minute remaining, Riverton Parke cut the lead to three points, 50-47 and pulled within one with :40 left when Matt Haltom connected on a shot.
But, two free throws from Nic Stanley put North Putnam up three, 52-49 and Kolten Everts sealed the deal with two free throws with four seconds remaining, giving the Cougars their first win of the season, 54-49.
Martindale noted the defensive effort on the night was a total team effort.
"It's kind of the bend don't break philosophy, but we just have to do a little bit better job playing with poise under pressure," he said of the ending of the game. "But we did things we haven't done all year in terms of the defensive side of the basketball. Guys were in help side. Guys were helping their teammates out and they were trying to get us going offensively.
"Offensively I don't think we had a very good night, but defense usually wins in situations like that and our defense stuck through for 32 (minutes). We're going to enjoy Christmas now," he added with a smile.
Things started well for North Putnam as they led for almost the entire first quarter, but a foul on Riverton Parke's Gary Secuskie with four-tenths of a second left allowed the Panthers to knot the game at 13-all after the first quarter.
The tipping point for Cougars came in the second quarter when its defense helped the offense outscored the Panthers 18-8 and take a 31-21 lead into halftime.
Jameson Brewer led the Cougars with 18 points, followed by Wiltermood and Stanley with nine points each. Nate Bryan scored eight, while Kolten Everts and Braydon Porter added five points each.
It took the Cougars seven games to pick up their first win and Martindale said it was nice it came on their home court.
"It's good. It feels good," he said. "We've had a tough road starting off here. We've had a lot of road games. We got back into our home and we had some nice feeling going back to our home gym and these guys are great kids, they work hard, we just had not got it together. I think tonight was a night we can build off of."
He also noted that the team is doing a better job of stepping up to fill holes if a teammate is struggling and they continued to make strides in that department Saturday night.
"They did a great job of that tonight and played as a team and we won as a team," he said.
North Putnam will travel to White River Valley Dec. 28 for a 7:30 p.m. tip.
At North Putnam
Riverton Parke 13 8 14 14 -- 49
North Putnam 13 18 15 8 -- 54
Riverton Parke -- Secuskie 13, Stites 11, Hill 8, Haltom 4, Edge 4, Vauters 3, Wilson 3, Boviar 3. Totals: 16-52 FG, 9-17 FT, 49 TP.
North Putnam -- Brewer 18, Wiltermood 9, Stanley 9, Bryan 8, Everts 5, Porter 5. Totals: 20-42 FG, 8-8 FT, 54 TP.