MONTEZUMA -- North Putnam's boys' basketball squad came into Saturday night's game at Riverton Parke short-handed in both the literal and metaphorical sense.
Senior Jameson Brewer was sidelined with a hand injury that left the Cougars short on front-court size, but not in determination.
Junior Bennett Hazelgrove scored 19 points off the bench to lead North Putnam, yet the big contribution was ultimately not enough as the Panthers edged the Cougars 62-56.
"Bennett is important to what we do," NPHS coach Nathan Martindale said. "We have to make sure that the guys on the bench can knock down shots and have the confidence to come into the game and Bennett played a great game tonight."
The visitors started off quickly, leading 8-2 early and using a 12-6 rebounding edge to take a 16-13 lead into the second quarter.
The Panthers snapped back by opening the second frame with a pair of three-point baskets from Brendon Bovair.
Riverton Parke held the lead for the rest of the half, but only led by one at halftime, mainly due to Hazelgrove's 10-point output in the period.
The second half started at a much slower tempo than the first as both teams took the time to get better looks on the offensive end and fouls disrupted the flow.
North Putnam was able to reclaim the lead early in the third quarter and held the lead until late when a Matt Haltom basket evened the score.
The two schools would head into the fourth quarter tied at 40.
"We had some missed opportunities in the first half," Martindale said. "We played well in the first three minutes of the third quarter but when Jake got into foul trouble, we didn't have a post presence."
The tie set up a seesaw final quarter of play in which NPHS started off by grabbing the opening five points.
Then at 47-43, the flow of play began favoring the hosts.
With Brewer out and senior center Jake Haste in foul trouble, Haltom drove the team with repeated attacks into the middle of the Cougar defense.
Haltom finished with 27 points.
Three straight Panthers' baskets put the home side ahead 49-47 and, when it looked as though Riverton Parke could extend the advantage, North Putnam snapped back with three straight baskets of its own.
With two minutes remaining and a 53-49 lead, the Cougars had a chance to take control of the contest. Instead, a pair of turnovers and several missed shots left the door open for the Panthers to come back.
Haltom answered by scoring five of the next seven Riverton Parke points to take a 56-53 lead, extended to 58-53 by a pair of Bovair free throws.
A three-point shot from Hazelgrove brought the Cougars to within two with 14 seconds to go, but four more Bovair free throws salted away the game for the Panthers and started North Putnam's four game road swing off with a loss.
Afterwards, Martindale said that all the squad players needed to be able to be ready to contribute.
"With Brewer out, that takes away a lot of the interior from us. We had the game in our control with two minutes to go and the pressure got to us," Martindale said. "We took some ill-advised shots and they scored a couple of buckets in a row. The guys played with a ton of energy, but we didn't play very smart."
Martindale said that while the squad played with intensity, there were certain things that got away from the Cougars.
"We need to learn from the mistakes tonight and continue to get better," he said. "The game had a lot of stretches for both teams, but we need to be able to sustain them. We had a five-point lead and the ball, but we took three bad shots and they got three buckets and the lead.
"We couldn't take bad shots because we lacked rebounders. If there were misses, no one was there to clean the glass up."
Martindale added that reviewing some fundamental points would be important over the next few weeks.
"Monday, we're going to go right back to the basics," Martindale said. "We worked three weeks on those at the beginning of the year, but they've gone to the wayside over the last week and I'll take responsibility for that.
"We've got to get back to basics like helping guard the backside and helping on defense. On offense, we need to remember what's a good and bad shot.
"We still have to talk about those things. There's a lot of small things that have to be fixed and we're trying to get to Christmas, take some time off and be able to work on things for the second half of the season."
North Putnam plays at North Montgomery on Friday and at Western Boone on Saturday, both at 7:30 p.m.
At Riverton Parke
North Putnam 16 12 12 16 -- 56
Riverton Parke 13 16 11 22 -- 62
North Putnam: 22-51 FG, 6-14 3-FG, 6-9 FT
Hazelgrove 19, Nauert 10, Haste 9, Beaman 7, Flynn 6, Green 3, Herrmann 2.
Riverton Parke: 21-56 FG, 4-16 3-FG, 16-22 FT
Haltom 27, Bovair 14, Organ 6, Edge 4, Sanders 4, Wilson 4, Mathas 3.
North Putnam 27, Riverton Parke 23
North Putnam 18, Riverton Parke 12