By Dennis Glade Times Herald
The Washington Times-Herald
---- — LOOGOOTEE — North Daviess senior Alex Wittmer hadn’t hit a shot all night, but that wasn’t going to stop him from helping his team to an important win.
North Daviess (4-4) defeated Loogootee (3-8) 49-45 Friday night at Jack Butcher Arena to snap a three-game losing streak.
Entering the fourth quarter, the Cougars held a slim 36-34 lead after outscoring the Lions 15-8 in the third quarter. Loogootee’s Ryan Howell’s fifth 3-pointer of the night put the Lions up 37-36 early in the final quarter. Kelby Byrer put the Cougars ahead 38-37 on the next possession. Wittmer added two free throws to give North Daviess a three-point edge and Wittmer his first two points of the night.
The Lions and Cougars traded baskets, but Howell’s sixth and final 3-pointer of the night tied the game with 4:17 to play in regulation. Wittmer made layups on consecutive possessions to give North Daviess a lead it would not relinquish. Wittmer’s two made baskets came after his missed his first six shot attempts on the night and all three 3-pointers.
“This is a team game and Alex (Wittmer) had a tough night as teams are going to really focus on him and for him to step up like he did in the fourth quarter was great to see,” said North Daviess coach Brent Dalrymple. “I thought all of our kids really stepped up at different times.”
After Wittmer gave North Daviess a four-point lead, Loogootee’s Hayden Bell missed two free throws and Zach Moore’s layup gave the Cougars a 48-42 lead with two minutes to play. The final two minutes, however, was a mess for both teams. Loogootee missed five of its eight free throw attempts to sink any chance of a comeback bid. The Lions were just 4-of-12 from the charity stripe on the night.
“I’m not crazy about these moral victories, we have to find a way to finish,” said Loogootee coach Mike Wagoner.
Kelby Byrer led North Daviess with 14 points and Dusten Cook added 11 points. Zach Moore had nine points and Brady Helms put up eight points. Dylan Street was the lone scorer in double figures outside of Howell’s 18 points, which all came on 3-pointers. Dalrymple was forced to play only five players due to an injury to Jaylen Lengacher and a defensive matchup problem with Austin Buehler.
The game started rather slowly as both teams managed just five points apiece in the first eight minutes. North Daviess jumped out to a 5-0 lead on two baskets from senior Dusten Cook. The Lions answered with a layup from Josh Sibrel and a 3-pointer from Ryan Howell. It appeared the first quarter just served as a feeling out period for both teams, because the second quarter featured 36 points.
Kelby Byrer scored North Daviess’ first eight points of the quarter, but two 3-pointers apiece from Howell and Dylan Street gave Loogootee the advantage. The Lions outscored 19-14 in the quarter to take a 26-21 lead at halftime. Loogootee’s Gabe Nolley added five points early in the quarter, but left with an ankle injury only to return for the third quarter.
In the third quarter, Loogootee jumped out to a 31-23 lead, but North Daviess answered with a 13-3 run to end the quarter and take a two-point lead to end the third quarter. Zach Moore’s six points led the Cougars in the third as the Lions lost all the momentum they gained coming out of the locker room from halftime.
With the victory, North Daviess got back to .500 after losing its past three games. The Cougars host Springs Valley Saturday evening at the Cougar Den. Loogootee hosts Barr-Reeve Jan. 18.
“As you can see the last two minutes was absolutely ugly,” Dalrymple said. “We really panicked in that situation and I told the guys the good part about this is we have 13 games to try and figure out those final two minutes. We better figure that out, because we aren’t going to blow people out. A lot of credit to Loogootee, but I am really proud of our guys for the guts and determination that they showed.”