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Thursday, December 31, 2015

South Runners Up in Shawnee Tournament

South entered the Shawnee Holiday tournament with some momentum -having defeated Bethel (only 1 loss at the time) the week before. After fending off rival Tri-County North in the first round, South encountered Talawanda in the finals. The Braves had defeated host Shawnee the night before 58-39. And they were able to go through South like a buzzsaw. An unrelenting man to man defense and an offense that could sink the 3 pointer as well as drive the ball in to paint made short work of the Panthers who would fall 46-32.

In the North game, South had to have someone else step up when their leading scorer, Jacob Bassler, was saddled with a North defender close by for a good bit of the game. Both JJ Utz (13 points) and Winston Crossier(15) points stepped up their games to help make up the difference. Bassler would still score 18 points on the night despite the extra attention.

South allowed North to creep back into the game in the last 3 minutes. And suddenly it was a 2 point game and the momentum was all North. But with about 18 seconds left and South with the ball, North had to foul. JJ Utz was sent to the line and he calmly sunk 2 free throws to pull South 2 scores in front. North turned over the ball on their next possession and South was able to run out the clock and preserve the win.

The story was different in the Championship game. South has been able to get points off of turnovers against other teams, but they found both turnovers and points hard to come by against the Braves. It was 19-6 at the end of the 1st quarter and 32-14 at halftime. Late in the 2nd half they did resort to a trapping half court defense and did generate some turnovers. South closed the gap somewhat but the Braves had plenty of cushion in their lead and were able to end the night with a comfortable victory. It was a disappointing end to the tournament for South.

South did put 2 players on the all tournament team – JJ Utz and Jacob Bassler. They lead scoring for South against Talawanda with 8 and 20 points respectively.

“Any game this year where we are not the hardest working team on the floor we are going to lose,” stated coach Augspurger, “I told that to the team tonight. We are not big, we are somewhat athletetic – but not physically gifted enough to get by on talent alone. We win by defense and effort. Talawanda came out and they were aggressive and physical. We did not meet their challenge. They took it to us and they were the more aggressive team. They were hungry tonight and it showed.”

He continued, “We got shell shocked early, and I took some timeouts to get settled down – but I could not find the right buttons to push. The only positive that I can come away with is our 4th quarter defense. We only worked on that trap a couple of times in practice, but we came out and did it with intensity. So that kept us from getting totally embarrassed.”

North Loses Two Exciting Games

Tri-County North lost both games at the Shawnee Holiday Tournament, but both losses were in exciting fashion. North has had 6 losses this season by 5 points or less. So they have been in many of their games, they just need to figure out how to win. They played their first round game against South and the game was close at the last minute with North charging hard. But South made some critical free throws to preserve a 56-52 win. In the consolation game against Shawnee the next night, again North made a strong bid to come from behind in the last seconds, only to miss the tying shot at the buzzer and fall 50-52. So North is showing that they can play with some strong teams, they just need to finish games.

The North – South was a rivalry game, but it was also the first match up between North's coach Spitler, (a former player South player for Augspurger) and South's coach Augspurger. And for a week night game starting at 6pm the game was well attended by fans from both teams. They got their money's worth. South did escape with a win, but it was not easy.

North had scouted South well and for a good portion of the game they played a zone with a player assigned to spy on South's Jacob Bassler, who has been the leading scorer for South this season. This was particularly effective in the first half with North getting a 1st quarter lead 14-11. South played man to man defense and did try to press North a little, North got some baskets off of it so thereafter South pressed sporadically to try and get a quick turnover.

South got into a better rhythm in the 2nd quarter, and got a 24-21 halftime lead. They did this mainly with their outside shooting. But when South came out of the locker room to start the 2nd half, they had a hot hand and quickly grew their lead. And at the end of the 3rd quarter, it looked like they were going to run away with the game leading 41-33.

But North battled back and made a nice run – it was a 3 point game with 2:56 left on the clock. And Zack Edgin nailed a shot to make it a 2 point game with 18 seconds left. But North was forced to foul and South's JJ Utz hit 2 free throws to make it a 2 possession game. North turned over the ball when they got the ball back and South was able to run out the clock and escape with a win.

So North played against Shawnee in the consolation game the next night. And the game followed the same recipe. The teams played within the same range for the first half. The score was 30 all at halftime. Shawnee utilized the press a good bit of the night. They did get a few turnovers but it was used more to get North in a hurry up mode than to snag any turnovers. The Arrows used man to man defense in the half court in the first half.

But in the second half, Shawnee switched to a zone. Both North and Shawnee have dominate post players – North's Kurt Brinson, and Shawnee's Thomas Buell. Brinson was scoring well in the first half, so Shawnee used the zone to hem him in. Brinson would finish with 20 points, but only 6 of those points in the 2nd half. He would win the battle of the big men, as Buell would finish with 12 points – he got into foul trouble in the second half and spent a good deal of time on the bench.

In a repeat of the previous night, North had to fight back from a 4th quarter deficit. They were down 52-45 with about 3 and half minutes left in the game. But they closed the gap and with 22 seconds left it was a 2 point game. They fouled to put Buell on the foul line and he missed his foul shot. North had to inbound the ball with 1.8 seconds left in the game – and no time outs. Still they got a shot off – but it hit the rim and bounced away. Again North came close, but had to settle for 2nd best again.

Was coach Spitler frustrated with the loss? “Well yes, frustrated with the loss, but proud of the way they played in both games. Tonight against Shawnee, this was probably the best effort we got out of our guys. I don't feel bad at all, I think that Zach Edgin had a good tournament. Brian Stinson had his first varsity start as a freshman, he played well. Our defense was outstanding for the most part. We rebounded well – Shawnee is a good team, sure it hurts to lose by 2, but we were able to play with them. We have different people playing well on different nights – if we can get everyone clicking on the same night, we can turn this around. We have been playing some tough teams, and it doesn't get any easier next week.”

On Kurt Brinson, “Kurt Brinson was our work horse this tournament. He put up 25 the other night and 20 tonight. He did a great job from the free throw line. They tried to keep him from scoring, but he found a way each night.”