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By: Corey Stott
UNIONVILLE, Mo.- 12/11/20- Coach Jeremy Austin took his Scotland County Tigers (3-1) on their first true road trip to Putnam County (2-4) Friday night. In a game that was both physical and competitive, the young men showed poise and composure to pick up a big road win 70-65.
“We wanted three things to happen,” Coach Austin explained. “Play hard, play smart and have fun.” He laughed with a sense of humor as he added, “I think we did two out of three of those tonight.” As he resumed his serious analysis of the game, he was quick to point out, “We played smart most of the time, but sometimes we got a little wild. I thought the boys played really hard.”
Before the start of the season, Coach Austin said that one of his major goals for this team was to be competitive in every game. He felt that if they could do that and stay within striking distance, that they could win their fair share of them if they maintained their composure and discipline. That’s exactly how things unfolded Friday night.
The game began with Scotland controlling the tip-off. The game was a back-and-forth affair, with both teams staying relatively even. The Tiger defense was solid, but they didn’t control the boards and Putnam kept pace by virtue of several second chance points. Scotland ended the first period by outscoring Putnam 15-10. Lance Fowler contributed seven of the Midgets’ 10 points. Carson Harrison had nine of the 15 Scotland points. Those two players would prove to be the most pivotal characters in the drama that was about to unfold.
In the second quarter, the Tigers established control of the glass and ratcheted up the defensive pressure. Midway through the second quarter, the Tigers had scored another 11 points while holding the Midgets to just one point. By the end of the period, the Tigers had outscored the Midgets 18-10, fueled by the offensive output of Corbyn Spurgeon and Kabe Hamlin. Scotland County took a 33-20 lead to the halftime locker room.
“At the beginning of the game, we were pretty bad,” Austin said about his team’s rebounding. “We got that back under control real quick. I give a lot of credit to our forwards. They were in there really knocking people around. When they started doing that, then the guards got into it too, and then we had an entire team working really hard. That’s what we want to see out of Scotland County basketball.”
When the teams resumed play in the third quarter, Putnam County went on a run of their own, outscoring the Tigers 24-18. The Midgets cut the Scotland County lead to 51-44 by the end of the quarter. The rally was powered by Fowler’s nine points in the period, including going five of six from the charity stripe. The quarter ended with a Jared Cerroni put back and you could suddenly feel the energy level of the crowd amplify considerably.
The stage was set for an intense battle to the finish, and that’s exactly what the fans got. With just under six minutes to play, the Tigers led 54-49. Coming out of the Scotland County time-out, Spurgeon buried a three pointer. But the Midgets answered with four quick points of their own, and it was a four-point game.
With 3:30 to play, Putnam called a time-out trailing 61-55. Coming out of the break, the Midgets put on a full-court press. The pressure soon paid off with a transition bucket off a Tiger turnover, and the Midgets were within four.
At the two-minute mark, both teams were in the bonus and began to make numerous trips to the free-throw line. The game got to within three points at 65-62 with just over a minute to play. But the Tigers were clutch down the stretch and made the majority of their free throws to put the game away and win it 70-65.
“This was a game where we had to maintain control and stay calm,” Austin said. “I thought we made the free throws we needed to make. The last couple of minutes we did a really good job of just controlling the tempo and took advantage of some opportunities to score in transition.”
Harrison led all scorers with 23 points. He shot an impressive eight of 11 from two-point range, and two of three from the three-point line. Hamlin and Owen Triplett each had 13 points, Spurgeon had 12, Cerroni scored six, and Hunter Holt chipped in three. Fowler led the Putnam County scoring with 20 points.