February 15, 2017
When it comes to Crawford County and North Harrison playing each other, you can throw out records or pretty much anything else for that matter. The long-time, and friendly, rivalry has always been one of bragging rights for both Wolfpack and Cougar fans alike. Friday night, the two teams met again on the basketball court at Ron Ferguson Gymnasium and, with a wild finish, the host Wolfpack finished with a 54-49 'W.'
North Harrison's Trevor Haub tries to make a hole between Crawford County's Josh Thomas, right, and Ty Nickelson. Photo By Wade Bell
"I'm very proud of my kids," North Harrison coach Kevin Jones, a former Crawford County assistant, said. "We did some good things. We had a really bad start. They didn't panic. We chipped away. It was a seven-point game at halftime. If a couple of plays had gone a little bit different, maybe it would have been a little bit closer."
"We knew this four- or five-game stretch was going to be brutal," said Crawford County coach Levi Carmichael, whose Wolfpack have run into a gauntlet of talented teams the last three weeks. "We knew West Washington was a chance at sharing conference. We knew everything that was going to be going on with this game. The communities take a lot of pride in it and being able to look at this game. I've seen a lot of people who I've not seen all year, and that's nice that we're able to win with them here."
The Wolfpack exploded out of the blocks with a 10-0 lead. Crawford County hit eight of its 10 shots from the field in the first period, while the Cougars missed their first seven shots. Skyler Wetzel finally put the Cougars on the scoreboard with a free throw at the 4:25 mark in the period.
Jake Book later added a deuce-and-one to close the gap to six. The two teams traded baskets till Josh Thomas and Adam Beasley scored inside to give Crawford County a 19-8 lead. The Cougars' Max Flock got a three-ball to finish the period, with North Harrison down eight.
Crawford County turned the ball over on its first possession of the second period, and Flock drilled his second 3-pointer of the game, cutting the Wolfpack lead to five. The Wolfpack's Brent Smith sandwiched 3-pointers around a Jake Troxell deuce, but Wetzel kept the Cougars to within seven, 25-18, with a deuce.
Neither team, however, scored the remainder of the period, and the Wolfpack took the seven-point lead to the locker room.
"I was happy with our defense, because, here lately, we've struggled offensively and our defense kept us in games," Jones said. "Our defense here lately, unfortunately, had slowed down to where we had given up a lot of easy baskets."
"In that 10-0 (run), we had three different defenses," he said. "After that, I thought we did a tremendous job on defense. We lost Smith a couple of times, We did a better job of keeping Beasley out of the the lane. He can score. They had a couple of physical, pretty big guys."
"Something we've tried to emphasize is getting off to a fast start," Carmichael said. "We executed really well. I just think you have moments, the kids are tired, they're banged up, and we had a couple of moments. There in the second quarter we got Book in foul trouble and we really tried to make that a point of emphasis. He's a phenomenal driver, and we were really worried about him."
Crawford County's lead briefly went back to double digits two minutes into the third period when Thomas and Matt Dearborn both scored in the paint for a 31-21 advantage. Wetzel, however, countered with a deuce and converted a 3-pointer off of a Crawford County turnover. North Harrison kept the run going as Flock drilled his third three.
Thomas got a deuce for the Wolfpack, but Book hit from behind the arc and then converted a deuce to complete an 11-2 run to close the gap to one. Beasley and Marples scored the next three points, but Troxell got two in the paint for the Cougars, and Crawford County held a 37-36 edge with one quarter to go.
North Harrison's Jake Harmon tied the game with a freebie for the first point of the fourth quarter after Crawford County's Dearborn was called for his fourth foul.
Gavin Coleman sank a Crawford County 3-pointer. Flock was called for his fourth foul, and Thomas converted both free throws for a 42-37 Wolfpack lead. Troxell scored again, this time in the paint, but Beasley countered with a deuce-and-one, with Crawford County up 45-39 with 2:23 left in the game.
North Harrison missed its next two field-goal attempts, while Crawford County worked to unwind the clock. With 50.9 seconds left, Flock was called for his fifth foul. Eli Gutknecht, however, sank a Cougar 3-pointer to close the gap to three, and Jones quickly called timeout.
Noah Sturgeon sank one of two free throws for Crawford County, but Book countered with a deuce. The Wolfpack's Ty Nickelson sank two from the charity stripe, but Wetzel scored again, pulling North Harrison to within two, 48-46.
Sturgeon sank two more freebies, then Gutknecht drilled another 3-pointer to close the gap to one, 50-49, with 12.8 seconds left. North Harrison's Jake Harley was hit with his fourth foul with 5.8 seconds on the clock, and Beasley sank both free throws, pushing Crawford County's lead back to three.
Following a North Harrison turnover, Jones argued about two calls, one along the far sideline and an obvious missed Crawford County travel. That led to a technical foul being called on the Cougars' bench. Sturgeon finished the game with both free throws, and the Wolfpack had the 54-49 win.
"Going into the fourth quarter, we were where we wanted to be," Jones said. "The plays there at the end of the game, a couple of breaks didn't go our way. Eli Gutknecht came in and hit some big threes. They (Crawford) hit all the free throws they needed to win the game."
"We had something drawn up (at the end) to where all we needed was an opportunity for a shot and for it to go in, but it didn't work out," he added. "It was a crazy finish, for sure."
"All through that, we knew they were going to make a run at some point, and they really made a nice run," Carmichael said. "Our kids did respond. I don't think you can look at this game and put a whole lot of beauty points on it except the defensive toughness, and that's what we've been emphasizing.
"Offensively, we've made a lot of mistakes, a lot of unforced turnovers. So, if we can clean that up and keep doing what we're doing, what we're doing defensively and toughness-wise, we can keep this going for a little bit."
Beasley led the winners with 14 points, and Thomas followed with 12. Crawford County hit 17 of 32 field-goal attempts (53 percent) and 18 of 20 free throws. The Wolfpack had 18 turnovers for the 32 minutes, 12 of those in the second half. Sturgeon had just five points, but he hit some clutch free throws when the game was on the line.
"Noah came in and played real aggressive," Carmichael said of the junior guard. "Noah's probably our most intelligent basketball player mind. I think sometimes he wishes he was just a little bit bigger. He's a kid who's played a lot, and he hit some big free throws to put the game away there at the end. … Technical foul shots are hard. There's nobody there on the line, and he did a good job stepping up."
Book led the Cougars with 12 points, while Wetzel finished with 11. North Harrison connected on 19 of 44 shots from the field (43 percent) and 4 of 8 from the charity stripe. The Cougars had 14 turnovers.
"We came up a little short, but it was a great environment," Jones said. "It's a great rivalry that will help us get ready (for the tournament). I'm not going to get caught up in our record. I'm proud of who we are.
"I'm proud of how we played. I'm proud of how we didn't give up. There were some times where things didn't go our way and we could have hung our heads, but I thought our kids bounced back and we made some really big plays. In the end, they made a big play or two more than we did."
North Harrison 11 7 18 13 - 49
Crawford County 19 6 12 17 - 54
North Harrison - Flock 9, Gutknecht 6, Troxell 6, Book 12, Kaiser 2, Jenkins 2, Wetzell 11, Harmon 1
Crawford County - Smith 9, Coleman 3, Marples 2, Sturgeon 5, Beasley 14, Nickelson 7, Dearborn 2, Thomas 12
3-pointers - Flock 3, Gutknecht 2, Book, Wetzel, Smith 3, Coleman