An anomaly in a loss
NEW CARLISLE — To say South Bend Washington shot it badly from the free-throw line on Friday night might be an understatement.
Despite a dismal 10 percent effort from the charity stripe, finishing 1-for-10, and three misses on front ends of one-and-ones in the final 27 seconds, the Panthers found a way to send New Prairie to a dramatic defeat, 52-50.
“They hit a couple more big shots in the end than we did,” New Prairie coach Kris Davis said. “They got a couple offensive rebounds towards the end that gave them extra shots and extra possessions. Like I told the kids, ‘It may seem like it comes down to one play at the end, but it really doesn’t.’ If you break down the whole game, there are plays throughout the game where we could have done something differently and been ahead by three at the end.”
Trailing by two in the last minute, the Cougars (3-7, 0-5 NIC) fouled to put the Panthers (6-5, 2-2 NIC) at the charity stripe.
Washington missed key freebies with 27 seconds, 14.8 seconds and 5.2 seconds remaining, leaving the door ajar for New Prairie. After grabbing the rebound on the third miss, the Cougars called timeout with 4.8 seconds left. After in-bounding the ball at midcourt, Mike Klemczak’s last-second 3-point heave from the right wing was off the mark. New Prairie also previously missed a long go-ahead trey with seven seconds to go, along with a crucial traveling violation with 15.4 seconds remaining still down by two.
In the fourth quarter, the lead traded hands a bevy of times.
The biggest lead for New Prairie was three, and the biggest advantage for the Panthers was only four. The Cougars were ahead 48-45 with just over three minutes left after Klemczak’s second 3-pointer of the period. From there, Washington closed the contest on a 7-2 spurt.
“Give credit to both teams,” Davis said. “Washington stepped up. Their kids hit some big shots. We did the same thing when we needed to. Obviously, you’d like to be on the other end, the winning end, but I like our kids’ fight and I like how we played. And if we play like this, there’s ’W’s on our schedule.”
After trailing 25-23 at the break, the Cougars went through a scoring lull and turnover troubles to begin the third, which had them facing a six-point deficit early in the period.
“That’s part of the process through the whole season we’re working through, to minimize those two- to three-minute lapses we have,” Davis said. “We can’t dig ourselves a hole. And honestly, we are minimizing those gaps. A month ago, we might have had a four- or five-minute gap.”
New Prairie responded, trimming the margin to one with just under three minutes to go before re-taking the lead. They went ahead as many as five in the third, 36-31. The visitors rallied however, knotting it at 36 heading to the fourth.
Sophomore Braydon Flagg paced the Cougars with 13 points and was efficient from the field, going 3-of-4 behind the arc. Chase Ketterer and Klemczak both reached double figures with 10 points apiece. As a team, New Prairie finished 8-for-20 (40 percent) from 3-point range.
“I’ve been pumping them up and we’ve been pumping each other up, saying ‘The shots are going to fall,’” Davis said. “We have too many good shooters. The numbers right now might not back me, but I believe it. When they get hot, they’re capable.”
The Cougars shot an even 50 percent from the field, but it wasn’t quite enough, as the Panthers shot 55 percent as a team.
Janye Griffin led Washington with 16 points, to go along with Demarcus Vaughn’s 14 points.
New Prairie’s junior varsity prevailed 51-49 in overtime. The Cougars’ Tanner Moreno notched 16 points, and Derek Daniels had nine points. Hunter Smith netted eight.
South Bend Washington 52, New Prairie 50
Cougars sophomore Braydon Flagg tallied a team-high 13 points.