North Putnam rallies for county title victory

Friday, March 16, 2012
The North Putnam eighth grade girls' won the Putnam County championship over Greencastle 28-25 Thursday. Members of the winning team include Claire Sims, Lauren Johnston, Rachael Engle, Sierra Spencer, Hannah Gray, Madisyn Smith, Madison Powell, Rachel Sims, Taylor Nauert, Jenny Heron, Adriana Millican and head coach Neal Knapp.

After an overtime thriller in the seventh grade county championship, the eighth grade game proved to be equally exciting as North Putnam overcame a three-point fourth-quarter deficit to come away with a 28-25 win and the county crown.

The win by the Cougars finished a county sweep by the Cougars on the night and head coach Neal Knapp was pleased with the progress of his team.

"It was great," he said of the sweep. "What was kind of the most exciting was seeing the progress of the girls all year long because as it goes with any coaching, you kind of go in ebbs and flow. I was really happy they came together at the right time and they played their best basketball in the last two weeks.

"What's even better, in every game we've won the past two weeks, we've been down. They've showed a lot of heart and determination to come back and put it away at the end of the day. That's been the mental toughness we've been trying to teach all year," Knapp added.

North Putnam held a slim 6-5 advantage after the first quarter, but was outscored 8-4 in the second period to enter halftime down 13-10 to the Tiger Cubs.

Greencastle extended its lead in the third, starting the second half with a 6-2 run to seize a 19-12 advantage. However, North Putnam was able to capitalize as the minutes ticked away in the quarter and fought its way back to within three points, 21-18.

Madisyn Smith pulled the Cougars within one at 21-20 early in the fourth quarter. Greencastle's Allison White hit a basket to make the lead three points. Adriana Millican cut into that lead with a basket and had Greencastle clinging to a one-point lead at 23-22.

Two free throws from Hannah Gray at the 2:32 proved to be the game-winning points as they lifted North Putnam into the lead 24-23. Jenny Heron tacked on four late points to move the score to its final tally of 28-25.

Knapp said the key to the championship win was the fact that girls stepped up on the night as the GMS defense focused in on the Cougars' top two offensive threats.

"Getting contributions from the most unlikely players on offense, because they (Greencastle) really did a great job on defense. We played them earlier this year and they really beefed up the defense and they really went after our two best scorers. In the second half, the third quarter especially, we had contributions from Rachael Engle, Maddi Smith and Hannah Gray on offense in ways we haven't seen all year. That's what really put us over the top, because Greencastle is a heck of a team," Knapp said.

Heron led the way for the Cougars with eight points, with Rachael Engle adding six points. Millican, Smith and Gray chipped in four points each, with Lauren Johnston adding two points.

The Tiger Cubs were paced by Paige Bragg and White with seven points each. Kaylee Evans scored six and Megan Haltom added five points.

At South Putnam

8th grade Putnam County Championship

North Putnam -- 6 4 8 10 -- 28

Greencastle -- 5 8 8 4 -- 25

Individual Scoring

North Putnam -- Heron 8, Engle 6, Millican 4, Smith 4, Gray 4, Johnston 2

Greencastle -- Bragg 7, White 7, Evans 6, Me. Haltom 5.