PUTNAM COUNTY CLASSIC FINAL: Cougars complete historic four-year run with 61-37 win over Tiger Cubs

Friday, February 9, 2024
North Putnam completed a first in the Putnam County Classic basketball era by winning a fourth-straight Classic title Friday night, defeating Greencastle 61-37. The win made it six-straight county titles for the 2024 Cougar seniors, who won two middle school county titles in addition to their fourth-straight Classic crown.
Banner Graphic/TRENT SCOTT

North Putnam had a chance to join rarefied air Friday night.

For as many strong teams as there has been in Putnam County over the past few decades, no school had been able to win four-straight Putnam County Classic titles since its inception in the 1973-74 season.

The Cougars, meeting Greencastle for a second time this season, cemented themselves in county lore, outscoring the Tiger Cubs in every quarter in winning 61-37 to hand the senior class its fourth-straight title.

“Our execution of our gameplan was so much better this time around,” North Putnam head coach Vince Brooks said, having lost to Greencastle in the first meeting 59-54. “It made all the difference.

“I’m proud of our seniors and happy for them that they get to walk out of here with that win. They’ve been incredibly consistent this season and over their four years here.”

“We struggled offensively tonight,” Greencastle head coach Bryce Rector said. “We missed a lot of easy shots; we didn’t get a lot of good looks as the game went on, which was something we did the first time we played them.

“North played really well and we didn’t play as well as we’re capable of playing. That’s the outcome you get.”

Both teams came out carrying over their offensive flows from Thursday night’s opening round games with Nolan Hackleman in particular having a strong start to the night.

The Cougar senior scored nine-straight points for the team after Isaac Pickel opened the game with a basket in the post, answering threes from Taygan McRoberts and Anthony Adams, a Sam Gooch basket and free throws from Cody Evans in the early going.

Hackleman missed out on a three-point play that would have made it a 10-point opening quarter but North Putnam snagged his missed free throw, eventually turning it into a Nolan Agusta three that made it 14-10.

Gooch and Evans scored on putbacks to tie the game at 14-14 but Kade Helderman hit a three at the buzzer to hand the Cougars a 17-14 lead after eight minutes of play.

The pace of the game slowed considerably in the second quarter as neither team could find the same shooting consistency.

Helderman eventually drained a three to double the lead to 20-14 while Pickel added a dunk off an offensive rebound and Jaylen Windmiller scored to stretch the gap to 10 at 24-14.

“When Isaac’s number gets called, he’s ready to go, man,” Brooks said. “It’s a good indication that our team is running well and our team is tough when Isaac’s playing well inside like that.”

Gooch prevented Greencastle from being shut out in the period, scoring to start the final 60 seconds of the half, with Hackleman hitting a late free throw to send the visitors into the locker room with a 25-16 lead.

“We missed some open looks and (North Putnam) did some different things defensively to get our guys out of rhythm,” Rector said after the first quarter. “I can’t say there was one specific thing that caused that but North played well.

“We needed a more balanced contribution tonight. If you don’t match a team like North offensively, the lead goes from five to 10 points very quickly.”

Helderman started the second half with a three to make it 28-16 with Evans and Pickel trading baskets as the offensive output remained slow for both teams.

Gooch hit a three and added a basket to make it 32-23 with three minutes left in the third quarter as Greencastle called timeout and began to try and press North Putnam.

The tactic found little success as Helderman glided past Tiger Cub defenders much of the remainder of the night, helping the Cougars to a 7-2 close to the period and a 39-25 lead as Hackleman scored five of the seven points.

“Kaden has really developed as a ball handler,” Brooks said about the junior’s ability to navigate the press. “We feel very confident when the ball is in his hands. He’s a little wild and crazy at times but I kind of like that.”

“We might have jumped the gun on trying to get out and pressure,” Rector added. “It was just a nine-point game and the lead exploded after that.

“It felt like we were down 20 points the whole night. You looked up and it was still single digits but we allowed the game to become unmanageable in the fourth quarter.”

Brady Barber opened the fourth quarter with a basket while Pickel blocked the next Greencastle shot and Helderman stole the ball away off the rebound for a layup and a 43-25 advantage.

Gooch hit a three but the Cougar snowball was rolling too fast down the hill to be stopped by that point as Windmiller hit one in reply, as would Helderman after Nathan Sutherlin hit one on the other end.

In between, North Putnam was finding its way to the free throw line with regularity, hitting 7-of-10 fouls shots in the quarter, as the lead continued to grow until the final horn sounded and the Cougars lifted the Putnam County Bucket for a fourth time in four years.

“We told the guys in the locker room that it was about using every game and opportunity to learn and improve,” Rector said about the loss. “Sometimes, you’re going to use wins and sometimes you’re going to use losses and tonight, we have to learn from a loss.

“We don’t want to be where we’re at tonight come sectional time, so we need to take some positives from this.”

For the North Putnam senior class, it finalized not just the first four-year sweep of the Classic but a six-year run of county dominance as the 2024 class won both Putnam County middle school county tournaments it competed in.

“There’s a lot of respect for any kid that goes through every year of a high school career and finishes strong as a senior,” Books said of his upperclassmen group consisting of Hackleman, Barber, Windmiller, Matt Farrington and Brogan Woodall. “We’ve got guys that have done that.

“I’ve gotten the chance to coach them since they were eighth-graders and now, here we are, watching them finish out their senior year. It’s been a lot of fun.”

North Putnam178142261


Greencastle (7-25 2FG; 7-18 3FG; 2-4 FT) — Gooch 14, Evans 6, Mc Roberts 6, Adams 6, Sutherlin 5

North Putnam (12-24 2FG; 8-18 3FG; 13-20 FT) — Hackleman 18, Helderman 14, Pickel 8, Windmiller 8, Barber 5, Augusta 5, Farrington 3


GreencastleNorth Putnam
D. Rebounds1121
O. Rebounds68
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  • Congrats to the Cougars! You guys rock!

    -- Posted by Queen53 on Sat, Feb 10, 2024, at 11:45 AM
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