NP boys pull off huge comeback

Saturday, December 2, 2017
North Putnam defenders James Duncan (10) and Elliot Gross put a stop to a drive attempt by South Putnam’s Dalton Scott.
Banner Graphic/JOEY BENNETT

Cougars never quit despite trailing South Putnam 29-12 at halftime

With his team trailing South Putnam 29-12 at halftime, North Putnam coach Collin McCartt knew something had to change.


South Putnam’s Lexi Vanihel (left) forces a jump ball with North Putnam’s Hannah Sims.
Banner Graphic/JOEY BENNETT

McCartt had his Cougars to extend their man-to-man defense for all 84 feet of the court in the second half, and the tactic worked better than even he could have dreamed.

The Cougars dominated the final two quarters by a 35-12 margin to beat the Eagles 47-41 and salvage a split of the Western Indiana Conference opening night doubleheader.

South Putnam improved to 5-1 by winning the girls’ game 46-29.

But clearly the most unusual game of the night happened in the second contest.

South Putnam’s Allen Plunkett scored 17 first-half points, with seven in the first quarter and 10 more in the second.

The Cougars hit just 4 of 20 shots in the first half, and appeared to be down for the count until the halftime adjustments.

“We were out of sorts in every way in the first half, and a lot of that was them,” McCartt said. “Plunkett was very good for them in the first half. He was pretty good every time he touched the ball.

“We didn’t do much with him, and offensively we didn’t move the ball and took bad shots,” he added. “We told then at halftime that in the second half we just needed to chip away.”

If McCartt had intended for his team to use an ice pick to attack the metaphorical wall in his team’s path, the Cougars instead chose a jackhammer.

Elliot Gross, who was held to eight points in the first half, hit a basket and a free throw in the first minute of the second half to give the Cougars some life.

After Plunkett hit a trey with 5:40 left in the period for what would be South Putnam’s only points of the quarter, the Cougars scored the final 13 points of the period to draw within 32-28 at the final stop.

“We did a great job of not fouling in our pressure,” McCartt said. “Our pressure bothered them, and we got things going at our pace. We got Elliot going, and had some other guys to step up.”

The Cougars scored the first six points of the final period on a trey and a free throw from James Duncan and two Gross free throws for a 34-32 lead.

South Putnam mounted a run of its own with four straight points to briefly regain the lead, before the Cougars roared back again.

A Gross basket, a trey and a pair of free throws from senior Treyton Smith and another Gross basket put North Putnam ahead 43-36 with 1:06 left.

Plunkett wasn’t done yet, though, hitting a trey and a pair of free throws to cut the NP lead to 43-41 with 24.7 seconds left, but Gross got a putback basket with 11.1 seconds and Andrew Pickel scored at the buzzer to complete the miraculous comeback.

South Putnam coach Greg Dean had no trouble pointing to the reason behind the collapse.

“We went away from things that got us there in the first half,” said Dean, whose team suffered its first loss of the year after two wins. “I’m anxious to look at our possession charts. I am sure our numbers were good in the first half; we got the ball where we wanted. In the second half, we broke away from that.

“Defensively, we didn’t do a good job on Gross in the second half,” he added. “We gave them a lot of second chances. He works really hard.”

Dean pointed to other numbers that demonstrated his team’s woes.

“We didn’t shoot the ball well from the field in the second half [3-14] or from the free throw line [4 of 13],” he added. “They made a big run, and we didn’t withstand it.”

South Putnam scored the final 11 points of the first quarter after an early 3-3 tie, as Plunkett hit two free throws, a two-pointer and a trey.

Steven Schnepp and Scott added baskets, as the Eagles led 14-3 at the first stop.

Plunkett hit a pair of treys sandwiched around one from Scott to open the second quarter and build up to the 29-12 halftime advantage.

Plunkett finished with 28 points to lead all scorers, but was the only Eagle in double figures.

Gross had 22 points to pace the Cougars as their only player in double digits.

Pickel added nine and Smith had six for the winners.

The girls’ game was not as dramatic, but saw the Cougars continue to show improvement despite losing their fifth straight game since a 3-1 start.

South Putnam scored the first six points of the game, with two each from Lexi Vanihel, Lillie Stein and Caitlin Capps, before the Cougars got five in a row of their own.

Hannah Sims had a putback basket and a free throw sandwiched around a basket from Baylee Osburn, but the Eagles got the only six points of the last minute of the period on a basket plus a free throw from Alex Bratcher and a trey from Stein.

Kinzey Young hit a free throw and a basket in the second period and Dana Tennis hit the first of her trio of treys to keep the Cougars close at the half at 20-11 despite committing 12 turnovers.

“When we played Cloverdale on Tuesday, I was very disappointed with our effort,” North Putnam coach Jarrod Duff said. “I felt in the first half we played well against Cloverdale. I challenged them a little bit coming out at halftime, and we didn’t accept the challenge and gave up 26 points in the third quarter.

“Tonight, though, our effort was there the entire game,” he said. “We got beat to every loose ball on Tuesday, but our effort and energy were much better tonight.. South Putnam is a talented, skilled basketball team. If we want to be competitive with teams like that, we have to have an effort like this.”

South Putnam’s Brian Gardner was glad to be able to pick up a conference win.

“Jarrod has done a great job with the girls there, and they did a really good job of make sure that we didn’t get the things that we wanted to get,” he said. “They did a good job, especially early on, of getting to looses balls and playing hard.

“For us, we made that run in the third quarter and fourth quarter and we picked up our intensity a little bit.”

The Eagles led only 26-15 with 3:13 left in the third period, but scored the last eight points of the period on four from Vanihel, a trey from Miranda Bieghler and a free throw from Stein.

The 5-1 Eagles now face the toughest stretch of their schedule so far, hosting 6-1 Clay City on Tuesday, playing red-hot Greencastle (6-3) on Friday and then meeting undefeated Owe Valley on Dec. 11.

“We have to be ready to play every night,” Gardner said. “Our defensive effort has been there. There are a few things we can shore up on the offensive end, and those are things we can make better.

“We definitely don’t have the ability to sit back and look at anybody.”

South Putnam returns to action tonight as Eminence comes to town.

The Eagles will be looking to avenge a defeat to the Eels last year.

“It’s good that we get to go right back at it,” Dean said. “They have a couple of players back from last year, and we have to be ready.”


NORTH PUTNAM (47) — Gross 7-10 8-11 22, Smith 1-5 3-6 6, Pickel 2-8 4-4 9, C.Duncan 1-7 0-2 2, J.Duncan 1-6 1-2 4, Davies 0-2 0-0 0, Murray 2-5 0-1 4. Totals 14-43 FG, 16-25 FT, 47 TP.

SOUTH PUTNAM (41) — Plunkett 9-19 5-7 28, Scott 2-5 1-4 6, Fanning 0-2 0-0 0, Schnepp 2-3 0-2 5, Watson 0-2 0-0 0, Arnold 0-2 0-2 0, Lesko 0-1 0-0 0, Gregory 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 14-35 FG, 6-15 FT, 41 TP

North Putnam 3 9 16 19 — 47
South Putnam 14 15 3 9 — 41

3-point shooting — NP 3-12 (Smith 1-2, PIckel 1-2, C.Duncan 0-2, J.Duncan 1-5, Murray 0-1); SP 7-16 (Plunkett 5-11, Scott 1-2, Fanning 0-1, Schnepp 1-1, Arnold 0-1).


NORTH PUTNAM (29) — Lyons 0-5 2-2 2, Osburn 1-7 1-4 3, Sims 2-4 2-6 6, Young 1-3 1-3 3, Runnells 1-5 0-0 2, Tennis 5-12 0-0 13, Gibson 0-3 0-0 0, Day 0-0 0-0 0, Simmerman 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 10-37 FG, 6-15 FT, 29 TP

SOUTH PUTNAM (46) — Stein 4-17 3-4 12, Vanihel 3-5 3-7 9, Bieghler 2-7 0-0 6, Capps 2-5 2-2 6, Nichols 0-1 1-2 1, Bratcher 1-3 2-3 4, Hill 1-2 0-0 2, Custis 1-3 2-2 4, Burdge 0-1 0-0 0, Egole 0-1 0-0 0, Steffy 0-0 0-0 0, Proctor 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 15-45 FG, 13-20 FT, 46 TP.

North Putnam 5 6 4 14 — 29
South Putnam 12 8 14 12 — 46

3-point shooting — NP 3-12 (Runnells 0-2, Tennis 3-8, Lyons 0-2), SP 3-16 (Stein 1-8, Vanihel 0-1, Bieghler 2-3, Bratcher 0-2, Custis 0-1).

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  • Looks like another long season for S Putnam

    -- Posted by nphs92 on Sat, Dec 2, 2017, at 7:46 AM
  • So NPHS92, were you at the JV games Thursday night? SP will be just fine this year. Stick to commenting about NP. That's my kid and his friends and team mates. Don't be putting down other kids! Rude!

    -- Posted by lduggan69 on Sat, Dec 2, 2017, at 8:35 AM
  • lduggan69....This guy has commented on almost every story. He really has an issue with NP. Not sure what his deal is or why he's so negative all the time. Good luck to your son and teammates.

    -- Posted by PutCoRes on Wed, Dec 13, 2017, at 9:16 PM
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