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Friday, May 6, 2016

Eagles rally to win second-straight county tournament

Monday, November 19, 2012

South Putnam senior Mallory Cash sinks the game-winning basket over Greencastle's Jessica Lenihan to secure for her team the 2012 Putnam County Girls' Basketball Tournament title. Cash had 17 points in the win.
(Banner Graphic/GRANT WIEMAN) [Order this photo]
An icy-cold start left the South Putnam Eagles searching for answers in the 2012 Putnam County Girls' Basketball Tournament final.

They found it with seniors Kelsey Whitaker and Brittany Birt as the Eagles rallied from a halftime deficit to defeat the Tiger Cubs 41-39.

"We finished the first half with that lineup, and we felt like that was the best one as far as defensive pressure and settling down on offense," SPHS coach Lindsey Blackman said. "I thought that was the turning point of the game, that second half lineup with Brittany Burt in there and having Mallory Cash and Mattie Varvel share the point guard responsibilities."

Greencastle senior Rayleigh Amis (23) absorbs contact inside and tries to finish a layup over South Putnam's Leanna Masters. Amis finished with 5 points in the loss.
(Banner Graphic/GRANT WIEMAN)
Greencastle started out strong, scoring 14 first-quarter points while holding the Eagles to just one-of-13 shooting.

The cold start on offense continued for the Eagles into the second, but the team's defense began playing with more energy and intensity when Blackman inserted Whitaker and Birt into the game.

"The first half we had wide open looks, our shooters were shooting and it wasn't going in," Blackman said. "We told them at halftime, just keep shooting, keep shooting, and the shots finally fell for them."

SPHS outscored Greencastle in the second quarter, though only 6-5, and trailed 19-9 at the half.

"South, every time you play them they come, they play hard and they're really well coached," GHS coach Bradley Key said. "My girls did everything that I asked them to do.

"I've got to do a better job of making some adjustments. It's the second year in a row that in the fourth quarter South has had some players come up with some big shots."

Blackman left Whitaker and Birt in the game to start the third quarter, and kicked up the energy in a fast-paced period.

Senior Mallory Cash began raining threes. She finished with 17 points on 14 shots.

When the shots weren't falling, Whitaker and senior Leanna Masters were there to grab offensive rebounds and keep the possession alive.

GHS sophomore forward Jessica Lenihan battled back, scoring 12 points, but it wasn't enough to overcome the inside intensity of the Eagles.

The Tiger Cub lead was 28-25 entering the fourth quarter, and SPHS looked tired from their third quarter rally.

But the Eagles refused to roll over.

SPHS opened the quarter on a 6-2 run, taking its first lead since leading 3-2 with seven minutes left in the first quarter.

As the teams traded buckets, the play became more and more physical.

With 2:47 left, Lenihan sank a pair of free throws to give GHS a 35-33 lead.

Cash immediately went to the block on the other end and got fouled as she put in a layup.

She missed the free throw, but tied the game and left Greencastle flustered.

After a pair of missed free throws by Greencastle senior Rayleigh Amis, Cash set up in the corner and drained another three, putting SPHS up 38-35 with 1:45 left.

GHS sophomore Callan Taylor, who spent much of the evening applying man-to-man pressure full court, got fouled on the other end and sank a pair.

The exhausting assignment left Taylor reaching, and she picked up her fifth foul with 1:12 left to play.

SPHS senior Mattie Varvel missed on the front end of the one-and-one, Amis grabbed the rebound from a pile and was sent to the line on the other end.

The senior sank both free throws to retake the lead.

Cash shook it off, crossed over the defense and hit a 15-food jump shot from the left corner, giving her team a 40-39 lead with less than a minute to play.

"We were trying to get the ball down to Jessica Lenihan, have her square her shoulders and get to the free throw line, maybe an and-one," Key said.

But South Putnam was ready for it.

"Defensively, we knew we needed a stop and we needed a rebound and we knew we couldn't put them on the free throw line," Blackman said. "The discussion in that last time out was, 'Play tough defense; don't bail them out with a foul. If they tie it, that's fine, but we need to have a good defensive possession.' And we were able to get that stop."

Greencastle found junior Shelby Earl in the post, but the ball caromed to SPHS senior Matty Varvel.

A quick foul put Varvel at the line and she sank one-of-two.

Greencastle went back to the drawing board but still couldn't score and the Eagles escaped with a 41-39 win.

South Putnam made seven-of-nine shots in the fourth quarter.

Blackman said winning the county tournament can have lasting effects.

"It's a way to start the whole year off on the right foot," Blackman said. "We were able to do it last year, and I know this group of seniors wanted to repeat and be the leaders of this team and they were able to accomplish it.

"It makes you closer as a team to be able to celebrate together this early in the season."

Key said he believes his team can learn from the defeat and move forward.

"You don't ever want to lose games, especially in county," Key said. "You practice all summer and all spring and fall for February. As long as we're taking steps forward and we're trying to get better and better ... I'm proud of them."

The Eagles return to action on Tuesday against West Vigo.

Greencastle hosts Crawfordsville on Tuesday.

At South Putnam

Putnam County Tournament
-- 14 5 9 11 -- 39

South Putnam 3 6 16 16 -- 41
Individual Scoring
-- Lenihan 12, Taylor 10, Amis 5, Basile 5, Earl 5, Covert 2. Totals 17-26 FT, 10-39 FG, 39 TP.
South Putnam -- Cash 17, Masters 10, Varvel 6, Birt 4, Whitaker 2, Nichols 2. Totals 3-6 FT, 17-53, 41 TP.

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