Old-school setting helps Cougars snap skid

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

CLINTON – Faced with the prospect of South Vermillion’s 6-10 Braden Kalber defending his team’s basket, North Putnam coach Collin McCartt had two viable options on Saturday afternoon – launch a bunch of outside shots and avoid the adept shotblocker or attack the big man head on.

He chose Plan B.

Cougar frontcourt players Elliot Gross and Andrew Pickel attacked the basket relentlessly and combined for 48 points in a 71-63 win over South Vemillion.

Kalber blocked a few shots, but the constant basket drives resulted in numerous Wildcat fouls and the Cougars shooting 39 free throws – 26 of them in the fourth quarter.

“He swings a lot at the ball,” McCartt said. “We just thought we’d go right into his body, and we told our guys they were probably going to get some shots blocked. I thought Elliot and Andrew did a great job of taking it at him.

“I thought our guys showed a lot of toughness overall,” McCartt added. “Especially in a stretch where things didn’t go for us. This was probably our most complete game as far as being able to respond to a run, and we did a really good job of doing that.”

The Wildcats got the first basket of the game, but North Putnam then ran off the next eight points and never trailed again.

But that doesn’t mean it was easy for the Cougars to break their four-game losing streak.

A Gross free throw and a basket and a trey from Pickel sandwiched around a James Duncan basket put the Cougars up 8-1 with 4:26 left in the opening quarter. North Putnam kept attacking the basket, getting a pair of baskets from Gross and others from Pickel and Caleb Duncan before Treyton Smith hit a trey late in the period for a 19-12 Cougar lead at the first stop.

South Vermillion started the second quarter a little stronger, with a Kalber basket cutting the North Putnam lead to 23-18 just 2:40 before halftime.

Gross finished with eight of his game-high 31 points in the second period, as North Putnam took a 33-25 lead to intermission.

Gross hit a pair of baskets to open the second half, and Pickel and James Duncan followed with hoops to put North Putnam up 41-25 just two minutes into the third period.

The hosts responded, however, getting 11 straight points to whittle the lead back down to five on a Brice Gilman basket with 2:26 left in the quarter.

“The hot some shots, and we had some calls that didn’t go our way,” McCartt said. “Caleb went down with an ankle injury for a little while too. I thought we just responded the right way. That’s what I was most pleased with.”

Gross single-handedly got his team a bigger cushion by scoring the last seven Cougar points of the period for a 48-40 lead at the final stop.

The Cougars increased their lead to as many as 12 with 1:21 to play on a Caleb Duncan free throw, but the Wildcats got five in a row to cut the gap to seven. They could never get closer than that, however.

North Putnam hit 17 of 26 free throws in the fourth period as the Wildcats constantly fouled to create chances to make up ground.

“We handled things and we didn’t turn it over,” McCartt said. “We understood the situation and did the best job of making the right plays we have all year.”

Pickel had 17 points to support Gross, while Smith added nine and the Duncan brothers each had six.

Mason Wiltermood and Bryce McLeish led South Vermillion with 13 points each, while Kalber had 12 points and 13 rebounds.

The Cougars and Wildcats played a rare Saturday afternoon matinee, with the girls’ sectional finals set for that night, at the old-school gymnasium of the former Clinton High School.

McCartt is a student of the history of Indiana high school basketball, and loved the opportunity to play in the historic gym.

“It’s always nice to get to play in a place like this,” said McCartt, who has taken his teams to several historic venues over the past few seasons. “It’s a really neat building and they had some good history here.”

McCartt said the atmosphere at the game was better than normal for games of this nature.

“Sometimes the afternoon games like this during girls’ sectional week are not necessarily great,” he said. “The attendance is not great. It was a great idea on their part to play here and it was a great atmosphere.

McCartt’s team hosts Turkey Run tonight prior to county tourney play on Thursday..

“It’s going to be a busy week, but a fun week,” McCartt said. “You love to have weeks like this, but you have to have a lot of focus.”

McCartt admits this year has been one of the most unusual of his career.

Leading scorer Gross missed several games due to injury, and weather forced some major changes to the January schedule.

“We played three straight games without getting to practice,” he said. ”We had the flu to run through our team, and for two weeks we couldn’t practice five on five.

“Sometimes you have one or the other,” McCartt added. “Our development as team is going to come a little bit later this year.”

NORTH PUTNAM (71) — Gross 11-19 89-13 31, C.Duncan 1-4 4-8 6, Pickel 6-9 4-5 17, Smith 1-6 6-10 9, J.Duncan 3-4 0-0 6, Murray 0-1 2-2 2, Davies 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-44 FG, 25-39 FT, 71 TP

SOUTH VERMILLION (63) —McLeish 5-14 3-4 13, Wiltermood 4-10 4-5 13, Vanlannen 3-10 0-0 7, Kalber 5-9 2-4 12, Johnson 1-9 0-0 2, Myers 0-0 0-0 0, Gilman 3-6 0-0 7, Panagoleous 0-1 0-0 0, Handley 4-5 0-0 9. Totals 25-64 FG, 89-13 FT, 63 TP

North Putnam 19 14 15 23 — 71

S.Vermillion 12 13 15 23 — 63

3-point shooting — North Putnam 2-7 (Gross 0-1, Pickel 1-2, Smith 1-2, J.Duncan 0-1, C.Duncan 0-1), South Vermillion 4-14 (McLeish 0-3, Wiltermood 1-2, Vanlannen 1-4, Gilman 1-4, Handley 1-1).

Tuesday night boys' basketball preview

Turkey Run (4-12) at North Putnam (6-11)

The coaches: Jeff Thompson is in his eighth year at Turkey Run. Collin McCartt is in his fourth year at North Putnam.

Season recap: Turkey Run has lost its last two games after winning its previous three. North Putnam snapped a four-game losing streak with a win over South Vermillion on Saturday.

Per-game averages: Offense — TR 48.3, NP 52.3. Defense — TR 61.3, 59.4

Opponents’ records: Turkey Run 130-132, North Putnam 151-151.

History: North Putnam won 64-48 at Marshall last year and has an 18-15 lead in the series over the past 30 years.

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