ELNORA — Washington had the right strategy at the right time, but lost the game in the process.
Washington rallied from seven-point fourth-quarter deficits twice against North Daviess, and placed the right pressure at the right time against the right player.
But the Cougars came away with a 35-33 win at the Cougar Den Saturday.
Despite facing double and triple teams in the final minute, Nick Crays was able to find an opening with seven seconds remaining to score his game-high 18th point to hand the Cougars (3-0) the win.
“When people ask me about Nick Crays, I tell them they know how good he is on the floor,” North Daviess coach Brent Dalrymple said. "Off the floor at practice, he’s just that much better. He really had to work on his shooting, because that was about the only thing he could do this summer, and I think he’s shooting the ball about as well as I’ve seen him shoot it.”
“I thought Colten (Garland) did a pretty good job on him (Crays),” Washngton coach Gene Miiller said. “We then started doubling him at the end, and we had forced some turnovers to get us back in the game.”
The Hatchets (0-3) forced North Daviess into two time outs in the Cougars’ final possessions by sending two and three players to trap Crays as he brought the ball into North Daviess’ offensive end.
Washington even used a foul it had to give against the North Daviess guard with 18 seconds remaining to slow Crays down.
But Crays found an opening on the right baseline as Washington double-teamed Adam Wagler.
Crays made the eight-foot jumper for the game’s final points.
“I’m not sure what happened on the play,” Miiller said. “He gave it up and we double-teamed the guy with the ball and left Crays open. You just can’t leave him open, that’s for sure.”
Washington’s Cullen Arnold was able to shoot a potential game-winning three-pointer from the right baseline just before the horn sounded, but his jumper caught the rim and the ball bounded away off the glass.
The Cougars took 29-22 and 31-24 leads in the first 3:35 of the fourth quarter before Washington started its comeback.
The Hatchets were able to tie the game at 33 with 2:04 to play on two Arnold free throws. Those two free throws followed Arnold making one of two after North Daviess’ Wes Lengacher was called for an intentional foul on an Arnold breakaway, resulting from a Cougar turnover.
Arnold made one of two on the intentional, and then converted the two foul shots on the ensuing possession.
A North Daviess turnover gave Andy Garland bonus free throws with 59 seconds left, but his first missed and Tyler Hostetter grabbed the rebound setting up the final North Daviess possession.
While the miss could have given the Hatchets a lead, Washington converted 6 of 13 attempts for the game from the line. Arnold made 6 of 10 in the final quarter. Jake Bedwell missed two chances in the second period.
The Cougars were not proficient at the line either. North Daviess made two of six. Wagler had both of those while Kelby Byer missed three and Crays misfired on his lone attempt.
Both teams were playing opening doubleheaders in the still early season. North Daviess had topped Shoals the previous night, while Washington fell at Evansville Central.
The appearance of Crays was questionable, as the senior continues his recovery from season-ending knee surgery from the previous January. The Cougars had said Crays may rest on doubleheader nights.
Dalrymple said the Cougars decided to play Crays Friday and see how he felt Saturday.
“What we had originally planned with Shoals being a sectional opponent, we thought about sitting him (Crays) Friday and playing him here,” Dalrymple said. “We starting thinking about it - that would be silly - what if he played Friday and felt really good Saturday. We would have wasted him. It’s the only time we get good looks at each other is when we play. If he can play, he’s going to play.”
North Daviess faces the same situation this weekend with road games at North Central and Vincennes Rivet.
“He’ll (Crays) will play Friday, that’s for sure,” Dalrymple said. “We’ll see how he feels Saturday.”
Miiller noted his team was guilty of two turnovers, and that usually goes a long way toward winning games. Yet, Washington’s shooting from the field may have been even more important than at the line.
“We had our chances,” Miiller said. “It’s hard to win when you can’t put the ball in the basket. We shot around 37 percent from the field. We just can’t score. We missed layups, we missed free throws. I’ve never had a team - it’s unheard of - we had two turnovers and lose a ball game. We took care of the ball, we ran the offense, we just can’t score and it’s tough to win when you can’t put the ball in the basket.”
Crays was the only Cougar to reach double figures. Jarrod Purdue led Washington with 11 points while Arnold had 10.
“I’m really happy to know more about our team,” Dalrymple said of the dual wins. “It’s really been hard to gauge who our team is. We know we have a lot to work on, but we now know the direction we’re heading.
“I thought Kelby (Byrer) had his best game of the season, because he had his best effort,” Dalrymple said. “He switched with Wes (Lengacher) playing defense on Arnold, and they did a very nice job.”
Washington won the junior varsity game, 56-39.
WASHINGTON 7- 4- 9-13 - 33
NORTH DAVIESS 8- 7- 9-11 - 35
Washington (33) - Purdue 4 0-0 1 11, Ghirardelli 0 0-0 1 0, C. Garland 1 0-0 2 2, A. Garland 3 0-1 3 6, Brashear 0 0-0 0 1 0, Stoll 1 0-0 1 2, Bedwell 1 0-2 1 2, Arnold 2 6-10 4 10, Milligan 0 0-0 0 0, Sparks 0 0-0 0 0. Totals 12 6-13 14 33.
North Daviess (35) - Crays 8 0-1 2 18, Cook 0 0-0 2 0, Woodruff 0 0-0 0 0, Lengacher 0 0-0 3 0, Hostetter 2 0-0 1 4, Wagler 2 2-2 1 7, Byrer 3 0-3 2 6. Totals 15 2-6 8 35.
3-point goals: Washington 3 (Purdue 3), North Daviess 3 (Crays 2, Wagler 1).