Facing North Vermillion, a solid start gave way to frustration before a late rally catapulted the home side into the final game against Cascade after a 53-48 win over the Falcons.
The Eagles jumped out early with solid shooting from Seth Hammond, who scored eight points in the quarter, allowing South Putnam to take a 16-9 lead at the end of the frame.
But the second period nearly proved to be their undoing as they failed to score in the period and allowed the Falcons to slowly chip away at the lead.
North Vermillion would take the lead through Dalton McCool, who scored all 11 Falcon points in the quarter as the visitors took a 20-16 lead into halftime.
South Putnam found the offense again in the third period through Trey Moore, as the sophomore scored nine in the period driving through the Falcon defense.
McCool chipped in eight more for the Falcons, who matched the Eagles blow for blow and started the fourth quarter with a 36-31 lead.
The visitors would extend the lead to as high as ten at one point, but, down 40-34 after a timeout with 5:09 left on the clock, the Eagle offense suddenly came to life.
Shots that had been clanging off the iron started dropping as the Eagles surged to tie the game at 42-42. The Falcons briefly retook the lead before Logan Pell hit a three-pointer to give the Eagles a 45-44 lead.
Hammond stroked a jumper before a Falcon timeout. Sawyer Arnold stole the ball after play resumed and went put in a lay-up that gave the Eagles a 49-44 advantage.
Arnold then produced the play of the game. After collecting a Falcon miss, Arnold charged down the floor and, between two defenders, threw the ball over his shoulder and in for a lay-up.
It was the knockout blow to the Falcons, who couldn't muster any more offense out of McCool to close the gap and allowed the Eagles to stake claim to their third win of the season.
Afterwards, Eagle head coach Troy Burgess said that as the squad built up some confidence, they got the results they wanted.
"We got out of the gates strong. That's what we wanted to do. We have tried to preach for the last month that we have been struggling to shoot the ball a little. That's no secret to anybody," Burgess said.
"The way you get over that is you have to attack the basket and try to create easy shots. I think we came out in the first quarter and did that. We made some easy buckets and attacked the rim."
"Then we got complacent. We started settling for threes and things that we've talked about all Christmas break about not doing," Burgess said in regards to the second quarter.
Burgess added that after halftime, the squad began to do the things that had gotten them the first quarter lead.
"We went back in at halftime, talked about it and I thought in the second half, again, we did a better job of attacking the basket," Burgess said.
"When you start making some of those, then you can get the kick-outs and when you shoot the threes, the basket looks a little bit bigger."
"I give the kids a lot of credit. To win when you get shut out for a quarter, that doesn't happen very often. They came out in the second half and played well defensively and did a nice job," Burgess added.
"When you start making shots, you shoot with more confidence and right now, we're not playing with a lot of confidence. We want to get to the rim and get those easy shots and get the confidence."
"Sawyer (Arnold) is a perfect example. He had the least amount of confidence after not making a lay-up. Once he makes one, he throws up something overhead, reversed and it falls. It's a confidence factor."
Friday night, the Eagles play Cascade in the Eagle Holiday Classic final. After being handled in their first meeting, Burgess said that protecting the ball would be key to picking up a win.
"(Cascade) beat us like a drum last time. They beat us in all phases of the game. We know that they're going to get out and pressure us. We've got to take care of the basketball," Burgess said.
"That's what we didn't do last time. We had over 20 turnovers. We've got to take care of the basketball whether it's in the half court or the full court and handle their pressure."
"We've got to play defense. We've got to recognize where their shooters are. They've got good shooters and we have to know where they are," Burgess added.
But after playing and picking up their first home win of the season, Burgess said the squad enjoyed playing in front of the home faithful.
"This is great. It's nice to be in here and we look forward to playing in here tomorrow night."
At South Putnam
North Vermillion 9 11 16 12 -- 48
South Putnam 16 0 15 22 -- 53
North Vermillion -- McCool 27, Woodard 10, Kilgore 5, Zumwalt 4, Weaver 2
South Putnam -- Hammond 17, Moore 16, Arnold 13, Pell 5, Chestnut 2
Next game -- South Putnam plays Cascade in the Eagle Holiday Classic final Friday night following the Consolation Game.