Grinding one out
NEW CARLISLE — New Prairie is content playing a rugged, physical style, albeit within the rules.
In fact, it prefers it that way. But on Saturday night, it had to raise the ante even more.
Once it began getting more physical in the fourth quarter, the Cougars felt very comfortable. The burly nature allowed New Prairie to dictate the flow more. That permitted the Cougars to erase a 13-point, third-quarter hole and hold on to beat visiting Westville 45-42.
“In the second half, we came out with more physicality than we’re used to playing with,” New Prairie’s Chase Ketterer said. “It really got in the other teams’ heads and we just kind of pushed through.”
The Blackhawks (10-12) built a sizable lead of 38-25 with 2:42 left in the third. The Cougars (7-15) clawed back, however. They started to play more physical and tried to hurry up the visitors with their stingy defense, including a full-court press at times. It worked.
New Prairie went on a 14-0 spurt over the next eight-plus minutes to go ahead 39-38 with just under three minutes remaining in the game.
The contest was tight the rest of the way. Once the Cougars took a 42-41 advantage with 1:38 to go, they never trailed again. Ketterer then had a driving basket with 48 seconds left to make it a three-point game. Westville followed with a pair of missed game-tying, 3-pointers by Carlin Young and Josh DeChantal in the last 31 seconds. New Prairie gave the visitors the game-tying chances after missing four straight free throws. After the teams traded free throws, the lead was 45-42 with 5.5 seconds to go. The Cougars then fouled to not allow another game-tying trey, but the Blackhawks missed the front end of the 1-and-1, however, New Prairie traveled on the rebound. So Westville, who used a timeout, had one last chance with 1.2 seconds remaining with the ball under its own basket. DeChantal received the out-of-bounds pass near half court in the middle of the floor, rose up and possibly got hit on his arm as he shot, but no call was made and his buzzer-beating shot was well short.
“The kids dug deep,” New Prairie coach Kris Davis said. “We were down 13 at one point in the second half and they didn’t score for the next eight minutes. We just dug in and the intensity picked up, and everybody fed off each other.”
On the other side, it was a difficult setback for the Blackhawks, who led by a 38-33 margin heading to the fourth, in addition to the 13-point, third-period cushion.
“Both teams fought hard,” Westville coach Drew Eubank said. “It was a little physical, which I don’t love going right into the sectional. We’re trying to get guys more rest than usual, trying to avoid anything from happening. They made plays down the stretch and we didn’t.”
Eubank’s team mustered a mere four points in the last quarter with one field goal.
“We just didn’t do a good job of playing through contact,” he said.
Still, Eubank saw some bright spots from his squad, who held an eight-point advantage at the outset.
“We did a good job in half-court defense and we hit some shots early in the game,” Eubank added. “That was big for us. That kind of got them back on their heels a little bit.”
Cade Boniface paced the balanced Cougars with nine points, and Ketterer and Mike Klemczak each scored eight. Jake Tuttle chipped in seven.
“Cade (Boniface) defensively in the second half was really good,” Davis said. “Evan Foerg and Nick Ryan came off the bench and gave us some good minutes. Chase (Ketterer) being a distributor. Cade (Boniface) was the reason why we won this game today. His intensity and his grit on the defensive end. Everybody fed off of it.”
Westville’s DeChantal led all scorers with 15 points, finishing 3-of-6 behind the arc, while Jace Woods was right behind with 12. Preston Lake added eight, all coming in the third, including a pair of treys, when his team distanced itself.
Early on, the Blackhawks went ahead eight a few times, including 13-5 midway through the first. The Cougars rallied, though, and cut the deficit to one, 13-12, late in the opening period, and later tied it, 15-15, early in the second. New Prairie then took its first lead since 2-0 when it went ahead 17-15 with 5:22 left before the break. After the Cougars led by as much as four, the visitors fought back and built a four-point cushion of its own. Westville held a slim, 23-21 half advantage.
New Prairie won the junior varsity game, 63-55. The Cougars’ Tanner Moreno and Hunter Smith each had 13 points. Westville’s Nathan Roberts recorded 16 points.
New Prairie 45, Westville 42
The Cougars rallied from a 13-point, third-quarter deficit to prevail.