ELNORA — The North Daviess boys basketball team entered Friday night needing a win in the worst way.
The Cougars (7-8, 2-2 Southwestern Indiana) snapped a four-game losing streak by defeating SWIAC conference foe Bloomfield (11-6, 5-3) 48-42 Friday night at the Cougar Den behind 10 points apiece from Kelby Byrer and Zach Moore and eight points from Austin Buehler.
North Daviess hadn’t trailed since the first quarter, but Bloomfield was ready to put the Cougars through another close game. With two minutes to play in regulation, Bloomfield’s Brandon Van Sant scored a layup to cut the North Daviess lead to just one point, 41-40. Dusten Cook responded with a 3-pointer to give North Daviess a 44-40 lead with 92 second to play.
Kyle Robinson made a turnaround jumper to cut the lead to two points. North Daviess inbounded the ball with 1:11 to play and the Cougars ran as much clock as it could before the Cardinals fouled Moore. The junior forward stepped to the line and made both free throws to clinch the game for the Cougars. Buehler added two free throws of his own to seal the six-point victory.
“The bottom line for all of us — Zach (Moore), Dusten (Cook) hitting that 3-pointer, Brady (Helms) hit some shots and Kelby (Byrer) made some plays,” said North Daviess coach Brent Dalrymple. “We’re tired of not executing when it counts and tonight when it counted our kids really stepped up and proved to themselves that they can get this done. It was really fun to watch and fun to watch that transformation.”
The first half was a back and forth affair with North Daviess holding a two-point advantage in each of the first two quarter. Byrer came out on fire by making all three shots he attempted in the first quarter to give him a game-high six points in the opening quarter and help North Daviess take an 11-9 lead.
North Daviess scored eight of the first 12 points of the quarter and opened up a 19-13 lead — the largest lead for either team in the first half. Bloomfield, however, was able to stay within striking distance and the Cardinals only trailed 22-18 at halftime. Byrer led all scorers with eight points at the break, Jaylen Lengacher, Dusten Cook and Alex Wittmer added three points apiece. Zach Moore and Austin Buehler had two points each.
“I saw a team that we could actually guard for once,” Dalrymple said. “It wasn’t a team of all guards where we have 6-2, 240 pounders trying to guard the perimeter. We have kids that matchup well. First and foremost, I thought we could play pretty good defense and our game plan was we are going to go inside. In the first half, we didn’t do a great job with that — we came down and shot the ball with no passes or one pass and we talked about that at halftime and made that adjustment. To the kids’ credit, they made that adjustment and we started moving the ball, making the extra pass and got some good stuff on the inside.”
The third quarter was won by the Cardinals, 13-12, but the Cougars had another balanced scoring quarter. Moore, Byrer, Buehler and Helms had two points apiece and Wittmer made a 3-pointer. Wittmer and Cook finished with six points apiece, Helms had five and Lengacher added three points. North Daviess was 12-of-14 from the free throw line. Now that the four-game losing streak is in the past, the Cougars will visit North Knox (8-7) to see if they can win two games in a row for the first time since Jan. 11 and 17.
“I’m hoping this just builds on itself,” Dalrymple said. “We got this from last Saturday (69-50 loss to Evansville Bosse). I really questioned myself about scheduling Bosse and what it did was show all our kids that they could be ball handlers. They had to be or we were going to get blown out of the gym. That really carried over into tonight and we’re hoping that continues to carry over and we hope we’re playing our best basketball by the time March gets here.”