ELNORA — Wednesday night’s game at the Cougar Den looked like a blowout midway through the third quarter, but North Daviess still needed to make a few clutch free throws in the final minute.
The Cougars (9-9, 4-2 Southwestern Indiana) defeated North Central (Farmersburg) (5-9, 2-4) 68-57 behind a total team effort on the offensive end for North Daviess’ third win in its last four games. Despite the victory, questions remain for the Cougars after they had trouble closing the game out in the final minutes.
Entering the fourth quarter, North Daviess held a commanding 47-32 lead, and despite a 14-4 North Central run to end the third quarter, the game appeared to be all but over. Nobody told the Thunderbirds. North Central trailed by between 12-15 most of the quarter, but with two minutes left, Kelby Byrer split a pair of free throws to push the lead to 61-46. Mitchell Peterson made a jumper and and Dusten Cook answered with a jumper off his own.
North Central’s Andrew Nikirk made a 3-pointer and split a pair of free throws and Austin Jewell made two free throws to cut the once 25-point lead to nine with 1:02 to play. The Cougars made matters worse worse when Alex Wittmer was called for a five-second violation. Jewell hit a 3-pointer from the corner to cut the lead to 63-57 — the closest the Thunderbirds had been since the first quarter. Coach Brent Dalrymple called a timeout and the Cougars calmed themselves. Wittmer made three of four free throws and Cook sank two foul shots of his own to close out the win.
“We don’t have those leaders that will step up,” Dalrymple said. “When one bad things happen, we put our heads down and let it continue to happen. We don’t get where we are supposed to be and then another thing happens. We are competitors and fighters, but when it’s on the line — we just have to watch film and continue to try and figure it out.”