Eagles thwart Cougars, take paddle
ROACHDALE -- Physical play was the story of the first game between North Putnam's girls' basketball team and visiting South Putnam. The Eagles took a semi-comfortable lead at halftime and held their ground during the fourth- quarter Cougar push to earn the victory 56-44.
"North Putnam did a great job tonight," SPHS coach Brian Gardner said. "They shot the ball well and did some things to get us out of what we were trying to do."
The game was even after one quarter thanks to some competitive ball on both teams. North Putnam held a slim rebounding advantage early and used the entire team to rack up 13 in the first.
The Eagles were all over the floor defensively and the defense led to many fastbreak buckets. Lillie Stein picked up where she left off against Clay City Tuesday as she had six first-half steals and the early defense held South Putnam to stay even with the Cougars at 13.
"You've got to do your job on the defensive end," Gardner said. "If each individual does their job then the team defense works well for you. For us we really pressured the ball. We got some denials and we forced them into things they didn't want to do. Any time you play any good team, if you can get them a little uncomfortable then that's when you can sometimes get a run."
Into the second, South Putnam was bolstered by some grind it out plays where the Eagles would not give up on the ball.
Stein hit a three and a steal led to a Maddie McHugh score as she was fed by Jenna Carmichael. McHugh then scored again of another fastbreak to open up a 20-13 lead. North Putnam did not let the Eagles escape as they fought back with their own run and pulled back to 20-19.
South Putnam's aggressive defense did put the Eagles in the penalty and the Cougars got to the line but only made 4-11 in the second quarter.
"I was pretty proud of the girls," NPHS coach Kevin Corsaro said. "What happened was exactly what I said would happen. They were going to come out and play physical. The game's going to come down to who's tougher and who hits free throws. They were tough and they hit free throws."
The Eagles did manage a five-point cushion after some gritty basketball that made the score 24-19 at the half.
"For us in holding onto the lead, getting that bucket at the end of the first half I thought really helped us going into halftime," Gardner said. "We had some back and forth and we got the last shot that gave us some momentum going into halftime."
The halftime break suited the Eagles better as South Putnam came out of the locker room swinging, scoring 14 unanswered points to go up 38-19.
"We came out after halftime our intensity level rose a bit," Gardner said. "We made a really good run and we fed off of that. I preach it all the time but it's doing the little things and doing the right things out there. Early in the year for us to do those things."
The Cougars were held scoreless for nearly six minutes and the Eagles were relentless with their team defense. Offensively the Eagles looked good as well. The third quarter saw the most points from South Putnam, 18, as Miranda Bieghler knocked down three foul shots and a bucket for five of her team-high 13 points. Drew Bratcher knocked down two shots as did Katie Hewitt.
"It's awesome to see that," Gardner said. "We talk about it all the time. Every play needs to have a purpose. I thought we had that purpose. I've said this all along. As a coach these girls are great to coach. If I asked them to run through a wall, they'd run through the wall for me. As a coach that's what you love."
North Putnam struggled to find the basket and it wasn't until Taylor Nauert got into her groove and scored all eight of North Putnam's third-quarter points.
"They were a little tougher than us in the third quarter," Corsaro said. "But it looked like we might get rolled there. So we battled back and I'm proud of the way we fought back."
With the score after three 42-27, it looked like an easy finish might be in store for South Putnam but Corsaro told his team to keep fighting and the Cougars put up their best quarter offensively, scoring 17 points.
"It's just a mentality and it's part of the culture we are trying to change," Corsaro said. "We think they are used to saying' OK they're tougher and we only win five games a year. Let's just roll over.' We've got to get past that. We have to get past that we don't believe in ourselves. When you don't fully believe in yourself then people can out tough you because you are worrying about dribbling and passing instead of what you should be worried about."
The Cougars were led by Nauert in the fourth, who knocked down a few long-range twos while Aleah Duncan and Lyndi Parent hit a pair of threes.
"When we are playing tough we look pretty good," Corsaro said. "We go to the boards hard. We can shoot a little bit. We've got to keep working on that toughness and our basketball IQ. We'll just keep practicing hard and try to get better everyday."
But the Eagles continued their good play and refused to let North Putnam get too close ,knocking down eight free throws with Carmichael and Hewitt each going 3-of-4 to help claim the paddle for South Putnam for the first time in years.
"It starts with Katie (Hewitt) and Jess Modglin as our senior leaders. They came in this game wanting to win the paddle. For us to walk away and have it in our hands, that's a great thing for those senior girls to have."
South Putnam (2-0) will have the weekend off before playing Rockville Tuesday, which will open its season at South Putnam. The Cougars will also play Tuesday against Crawfordsville.
At North Putnam
SPHS 13 11 18 14 -- 56
NPHS 13 6 8 17 -- 44
Eagle Scoring Bieghler 13, Stein 11, McHugh 8, Hewitt 7, Carmicheal 7, Capps 4, Bratcher 4, Nichols 2
Cougar Scoring Nauert 15, Parent 8, Runnels, Suding 7, Runnels 5, Duncan 3, Millican 3, Henninger 3