Gross leads Cougars to finals with win over Covenant Christian

Saturday, March 3, 2018
Andrew Pickel of North Putnam goes up for two against Covenant Christian on Friday night
Banner Graphic/JOEY BENNETT

The North Putnam Cougars used a strong third quarter Friday night and did something they haven’t done since 2002 — advance to a sectional championship.

Elliot Gross had 21 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Cougars to a 55-42 victory over the Covenant Christian Warriors in Class 2A Sectional 44 play.

North outscored the Warriors 14-5 in a decisive third period and set up a game with county rival Cloverdale for the title tonight at the South Putnam Sectional site.

The Cougars didn’t start out the game like a team that would play for the title. Covenant used a 10-2 run early in the first quarter to take a 14-8 lead at the first break as Sam Fulbright scored eight of his team-high 16 points to lead the Warriors. Meanwhile, North struggled to get shots, turning the ball over six times in the quarter. Gross kept the Cougars in the game with six points.

North was able to cut its turnovers down in the second quarter and make a rally. The Cougars started the period with a Caleb Duncan three-pointer, Gross then scored five straight points and the Cougars tied the game at 16-16.

Covenant then went on a run of its own to boost the lead to 24-19 late in the half, but James Duncan scored on a layup and Caleb closed the half with his second trey of the quarter to tie the score at 24-all.

“They made a run in the second quarter and we had to make one of our own to get the game tied at the half,” North Putnam coach Collin McCartt said.

The Cougars came out in the second half and took control of the game. Gross and James Duncan opened the third quarter by each hitting a three-pointer, then Gross added a pair of free throws and North led 32-24, forcing a Covenant timeout.

“We came out and had really solid offensive possessions to start the second half,” McCartt said.

North’s defense, which allowed the Warriors to hit 11-of-20 shots in the first half, picked up its intensity in the second half. North held Covenant to 2-of-12 shooting in the third quarter and limited them to just five points as the headed into the final stanza with a 38-29 lead.

“We went back to solid defense,” McCartt said. “I thought we played (Jordan) Webb really well and we rebounded the ball really well in the second half.”

The Cougars really used their inside game as they outrebounded the Warriors 37-21 on the night.

The Cougars never allowed the Warriors to get any closer than 10 points in the final period. North was able to exploit the pressure defense that Covenant began to employ. North picked up a couple of easy layups late in the game and hit their free throws to advance despite having five turnovers in the final period. North went 8-of-11 from the charity stripe in the final quarter.

“We did some silly things, but we recognized when they came with pressure and was able to get a couple of easy buckets,” McCartt said.

North’s Gross led all scorers with 21 points and Caleb Duncan had 13.

“He (Gross) is pretty much feeling like himself. He’s a great player. He is so versatile, he can handle the ball and you are not going to find a better six-foot-one post player. He is so smart and put us in good positions,” McCartt said of his senior.

Covenant was led by Fulbright with 16 points, while Jordan Webb added 13 for the Warriors.

North, now 10-15 on the season, will take on sectional favorite and three-time defending champion Cloverdale tonight.

COVENANT CHRISTIAN (42) – Webb 6-15 1-4 13, Flatt 1-12 0-0 3, Fulbright 6-7 4-4 16, Grant 3-7 0-0 8, Tinkey 1-5 0-0 2, Chikamba 0-3 0-0 0, Maudlin 0-2 0-0 0, Moran 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 17-52 FG, 5-8 FT, 42 TP.

NORTH PUTNAM (55) — C. Duncan 4-8 2-3 13, Murray 0-0 0-0 0, Smith 0-2 4-4 4, Pickel 4-8 0-0 8, Gross 6-14 8-11 21, J. Duncan 4-6 0-0 9. Totals 18-38 FG, 14-18 FT, 55 TP.

Cov. Christian 14 10 5 13 — 42

North Putnam 8 16 14 17 — 55

3-Point shoooting — CC 3-22 (Webb 0-3, Flatt 1-9, Grant 2-4, Tinkey 0-3, Maudlin 0-2, Moran 0-1) NP 5-10 (C. Duncan 3-5, Pickel 0-1, Gross 1-1, J. Duncan 1-3). Rebounds – CC 21 (Webb 3, Flatt 2, Fulbright 8, Grant 2, Chikamba 2, Maudlin 2) NP – 37 (C. Duncan 5, Smith 2, Murray 1, Pickel 9, Gross 11, J. Duncan 6) FG Pct. – CC 32.7, NP 47.4. FT Pct. – CC 62.5, NP 77.8. Turnovers CC 9, NP 18.

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