One big run
ELKHART – When things started to unravel for New Prairie, they unraveled in a hurry.
With one minute remaining in the third quarter, the Cougars led South Bend Washington, 30-28, in the opening round of the Class 3A sectional Wednesday night at Jimtown.
Six minutes later, Washington was up, 49-32.
“They just keep bringing that pressure at you, and finally it wore us down,” said New Prairie coach Kris Davis after the Cougars closed their season with a 52-38 loss.
For three quarters at least, the game was anything but a blowout. Much like their regular-season matchup – which the Cougars lost by two points – the teams battled back-and-forth with 11 lead changes.
New Prairie, in fact, held a 21-18 advantage at halftime.
But then, Washington apparently realized it was the quicker, more athletic squad, and started playing like it.
For a six-minute stretch – from one minute remaining in the third quarter until three minutes remained in the fourth – the Cougars were barely able to get off a shot.
Washington, meanwhile, revved up its transition game, picking off Cougars passes or blocking shots and then scoring on fast breaks.
“I don’t know why, but we weren’t energetic in the first half. We weren’t focused,” said Washington coach Ryan Varga. “When we finally picked up our intensity and our pressure, that’s when things turned for us.”
Jylen Petty scored 18 points and Da’Qua Jennings chipped in 13 to lift the Panthers (14-10) into Friday’s semifinals against defending state champion Culver Academies (18-3).
The Eagles topped a pesky Jimtown squad, 48-35, in Wednesday’s other first-round contest.
The Cougars weren’t helped by a technical foul called on sparkplug forward Jacob Tuttle early in the fourth period, which only seemed to accelerate the blowout.
“That let some of the air out of our balloon,” said Davis. “Our kids were playing hard, but the simple fact is Washington got on a roll.”
Chase Ketterer scored 11 to lead New Prairie, while Tuttle chipped in with eight.
Washington shot 25 free throws, while New Prairie only had four. The Panthers sank 12-of-15 free throws in the fourth quarter, snuffing any hope of a Cougars rally.
The Panthers also committed only eight turnovers.
“It comes down to hitting shots and handling the ball,” said Davis. “We did a good job of that for a while, but against a team like Washington, it has to be for four quarters.”
Class 3A Jimtown Sectional
South Bend Washington 52, New Prairie 38.
Chase Ketterer led the Cougars with 11 points.