By Dennis Glade
Washington Times Herald
The North Daviess boys’ basketball team is finding out how good they can truly be this season, and so is the rest of Southern Indiana.
The Class A No. 6 Cougars (9-2) defeated Class A No. 4 Loogootee (10-2) 46-40 Friday evening at the Cougar Den behind 24 points from senior Nick Crays.
The Cougars seemed to control the entire second half, yet Loogootee had the ball down two points with 47 second to play in regulation. After killing some clock, the Lions found senior forward Conner Wittmer at the top of the key and he let fly a would-be go-ahead 3-pointer, but it clanged off the back rim.
Crays grabbed the rebound, and was fouled by Cam Wagler. Crays hit both free throws to put the Cougars up four points with 19 seconds to play. After another missed three from Loogootee, and an uncontested layup from Crays, North Daviess had its biggest win of the season, over the defending Class A state champions.
Loogootee came out firing on all cylinders as they ran out to a quick 5-0 lead, the Cougars answered with five points of their own to tie the score. Loogootee then scored 10 of the next 14 points to hold a 15-9 lead after the first eight minutes. Matt Mathies had six in the opening quarter for the Lions.
“I thought we were stagnant defensively, we gave them way too many points,” said North Daviess coach Brent Dalrymple. “For us to have eight, that’s normal. Usually we start out kind of slow, get a feel for what’s going on, but defensively we were really struggling. We weren’t guarding 12 (Mathies) very well.”
The 15 first quarter points would be the only double figure quarter; the Cougars would surrender on the night as they tightened up defensively. In the second quarter, North Daviess had much more spark on the offensive end, which was spearheaded by Crays and junior Wes Lengacher. The two combined for 13 of the team’s 14 second quarter points.
With a little over two minutes to play in the first half, Loogootee held a three point lead, and Loogootee coach Mike was hoping his team could take that momentum into halftime, but that wasn’t the case.
“We had a 21-18 lead and the ball, and a chance to run some clock, and get a good shot,” Wagoner said. “Instead we drive baseline, and throw up a floater that we don’t need. A bad shot at a bad time. They come down and score and they tie it up at halftime. Instead of us going up three or four at halftime, so they have the momentum going in.”
In the third quarter, Crays continued to cause trouble for the Lions defense, while the Lion offense struggled to find a rhythm. North Daviess stretched the lead to 32-27, before settling for a 34-32 lead at the end of third quarter. Both teams went back and forth in the final eight minutes, and despite controlling most of the game, North Daviess needed one more stop with 47 seconds to play.
“We got three options off of that drive,” Wagoner said. “Conner (Wittmer) is going to take a flare, if the guy ducks, Colin (Nelson) is going to step up and shoot a three at the top of the key. We’re going to have to hit one; they’re going to give it to us all night. Wittmer hits that shot all the time, that’s hit shot at the top of the key.”
Nelson led the Lions in scoring with 12 points, Wittmer added 11, and Mathies had 10 points. The Lions have the next week off, and will visit Barr-Reeve next Saturday.
Dalrymple said his team is starting to realize how hard they have to work for an entire game, and that starts with everyone getting comfortable with each other. Due to Crays’ rehab, his practice time has been limited, but the team is starting click together.
“We’ve played 11 games,” Dalrymple said. “Now it’s starting to click,”
Loogootee 15 8 9 8 -- 40
North Daviess 9 14 11 12 -- 46
Nelson 4 4-4 3 12, Wittmer 5 0-1 4 11, Wagler 1 0-0 4 2, Mathies 4 1-2 0 10, Nonte 2 0-0 3 5. Totals: 16 5-7 16 40.
North Daviess (46)
Crays 5 11-13 3 24, Helms 1 0-0 0 2, Lengacher 5 2-2 2 13, Byrer 2 1-4 0 5, A. Wagler 1 0-0 1 2. Totals: 13 14-19 6 46.
3-point goals: Loogootee 3 (Wittmer 1, Nonte 1, Mathies 1). North Daviess 4 (Crays 3, Lengacher 1)