March 08, 2017
The Crawford County Wolfpack upped their win streak to nine Friday night by avenging a regular season loss to Clarksville and ousting the Generals from the Class 2A Crawford County boys' basketball sectional. It wasn't an easy night for the Wolfpack, however, with both teams trying to shut the door on the other, but, in the end, Crawford County squeaked by with a 41-38 win.
Crawford's County's Ty Nickelson fights off an attack by Clarksville's Murphy McEwen in the first half of the Wolfpack's semi-final win. Photo By Wade Bell
"We knew it was going to be a slugfest with them," Crawford County coach Levi Carmichael said. "It always is. I think we match up with each other well and both take away each other's strengths pretty well. We knew we were going to be in for a dogfight."
Crawford County got off on the wrong foot with some horrendous shooting, hitting just two of 15 shots from the field in the first eight minutes. Clarksville, meanwhile, put in five of its eight field-goal attempts to take an 11-7 lead.
When asked if the difference in the start might have been because the Generals had a sectional game under their belts, Carmichael said that should not have mattered.
"You've got five seniors and three juniors who've played and have sectional experience," he said. "It's shouldn't matter. I just think, for whatever reason, our focus wasn't on what we needed to do as a team. We had a lot of 'me' focus tonight and 'I've got to do this,' 'I've got to do that.' Well, that doesn't matter. You've got to figure out what you've got to get done together."
Clarksville's green shooting light changed to red in the second period as the Generals connected on just one of its 10 field-goal attempts. Crawford County's Brent Smith closed the gap to one point with a 3-pointer to start the period. Alex Taylor scored in the paint for Clarksville's only field goal.
Both teams came up dry the next few minutes, then Ty Nickelson dropped in two Crawford County free throws. That started an 8-0 run for the Wolfpack, with Matt Dearborn sinking a short jumper at the end of the half to give Crawford County an 18-13 lead.
Crawford County was just 6 of 27 from the field in the first half, with most of the misses coming in the paint.
"That's been our bread and butter all year," Carmichael said. "I think we got a little too amped up, too hyped up. They're as big as us, and we weren't able to take advantage of that early, and I think that we kind of got back on our heels a little bit. Luckily, Brent hit a couple of big threes and hit the big three there late to kind of get us going and that lead."
Clarksville pulled back to within four to begin the second half, but Dearborn and Adam Beasley went to the paint, and this time the shots fell in, pushing Crawford County's lead back to eight. The Generals, however, kept their composure and countered with a 7-0 run to close the gap to just one, 25-24, with one quarter to go.
"When Matt gets in foul trouble, when Josh gets in foul trouble, we just lose that focus a little bit," Carmichael said. "I think we just got really amped up. You're at home. You've got a lot of seniors. They were just amped up a little bit. It was a nice crowd."
Clarksville went back in front when Ethan Cummings drilled a 3-pointer to start the final quarter. Crawford County answered with nine straight, including Nickelson scoring twice inside and Smith drilling another three-ball, to go back in front, 34-27.
The Generals wouldn't go away and got the next four. Points went back and forth, then Christian Stewart drove the lane for two to close the gap to three, 37-34. Beasley and Nickelson got singles for the Wolfpack, but Taylor countered with a deuce.
Time, however, became a factor and went in Crawford County's favor. The two teams traded buckets, with Crawford County advancing to the final with a 41-38 win.
"The only disappointing thing on our end, during this winning streak we've had we've done a lot of things that we've preached all year, and tonight, for whatever reason, it kind of disappeared for long stretches," Carmichael said. "The good thing was, in those key moments in tonight's game, we were able to kind of do what we do and made some big plays. This time of the year it doesn't matter what it looks like. You've just got to figure out a way to get to tomorrow night."
"We have stretches like this all year where we just kind of, for whatever reason, we find that lull and people just kind of go their separate ways," he said. "We're a team that has to do things a certain way for us to be successful. Sometimes we just forget that."
Smith led the Wolfpack with 12 points, hitting four shots from behind the arc, while Beasley followed with 10. Crawford County put up 44 shots, making 13 (30 percent), and converting 11 of 16 free throws. The Wolfpack had just eight turnovers in the 32 minutes.
"We just have to do a better job of being aggressive and being smart when we attack," Carmichael said.
Taylor led the Generals with 11 points. Clarksville connected on 15 of 35 field-goal attempts (43 percent) and 7 of 9 from the charity stripe. Clarksville finished with 13 turnovers.
"Taylor was out for a long stretch for them and they lost some games that I'm sure (coach) Brian (McEwen) would like to have back," the Crawford County coach said. "When Taylor's going, he's a big guy in the middle and he can compete with our bigs.
"We just got on our heels a little bit and just got out of control and did things we haven't done all year. You would hope the jitters are out and you would hope, hopefully, we could play a little more relaxed tomorrow night."
Crawford County looked to avenge a nine-point, regular season loss to the Providence Pioneers, who disposed of Paoli in the other semi-final round game, in the final.
"Nobody in the world thinks we're ever going to compete with them," Carmichael said. "That's fine and people can believe what they want. I think our boys have been looking forward to this rematch a little bit. We're going to go lay it out. We're not going to back down. We're going to play a lot better tomorrow. We'll be ready to go."
Crawford County 7 11 7 16 - 41
Clarksville 11 2 11 14 - 38
Crawford County - Smith 12, Coleman 4, Beasley 10, Nickelson 7, Dearborn 4, Thomas 4
Clarksville - M. McEwen 2, VanWinkle 2, Hamilton 1, Cummings 5, Stewart 8, Ludwich 9, Taylor 11
3-pointers - Smith 4, Cummings