Cardiac Cougars crash Crusaders

By Malcolm Butler

Just a little over a week ago, Connor Norris, Carter Hill and Brian Osborne were finishing the Cedar Creek football season with a second round playoff loss at No. 1 seed Vermilion Catholic.

On Tuesday night, those Cougars and their teammates were hooping it up on the hardwood.

And finding ways to making game-winning plays.

Norris’ 18-footer with 2.0 seconds to play lifted Cedar Creek to a 68-67 win over Claiborne Christian in a game that saw the Cougars lead only twice (9-8 in first quarter and 68-67 at the end).

The trio combined for 14 of Creek’s 23 points in the final stanza as the Cougars rallied from a 59-50 deficit in the fourth quarter.

First year Creek head coach Lance Waldron said trying to acclimate the Cougars football players into the rotation was a challenge in the first game with the entire roster in tact>

“That was difficult,” said Waldron. “I’ve never been in that position before. I think it was difficult for the players too. They are expected to step on the floor and perform and sometimes it doesn’t work out like that. They are still in football form. They missed some easy shots that we should have made, but all the guys worked through it and we found a way to win.”

Trailing by nine with five minutes to play, Creek began chipping away at the deficit. An offensive rebound and putback by Hill with 2:38 to play closed the gap to 63-58. Norris then drained a three-pointer with 45 seconds remaining to cut the deficit to 64-63. After two free throws by Claiborne Christian, Osborne buried a three-pointer to tie the score at 66-66 with 28 seconds to play.

Following Hill’s fifth foul of the game with 17 seconds to play sent Claiborne Christian’s Kaleb Gregory to the line, Waldron called a timeout to talk about the final possession.

“We had just hit a couple of three-pointers to get back into the game,” said Waldron. “I told the guys we don’t need a three in this situation. Let’s work the ball around and get a good shot, but don’t settle for a three. They executed it to a T. Connor pulled up and hit the jump shot. I couldn’t be more proud of how they handled the possession.”

Gregory, who ended with a game-high 35 points, missed the first free throw but hit the second to give the Crusaders a 67-66 lead, setting the stage for the final heroics.

With the clock running down, Norris took a pass on the left wing, drove middle, pulled up and sank the 18-footer to give the Cougars their first lead since it was 9-8 in the first quarter.

“I’ve been telling the guys to rip and drive,” said Norris. “Coach said we don’t need a three in this situation. So I ripped through and pulled up for a little jump shot.”

The Cougars trailed 33-26 at halftime and by as many as 11 points in the third quarter. However, they began getting the ball in the middle against Claiborne Christians 1-3-1 zone and had some success.

“That was something Jack Thigpen showed me several years ago,” said Waldron. “When you attack a 1-3-1 zone, just put a guy in the middle and a player on each wing. Then two guards up front. It’s a simple set, and we just let the guys play out of it. They really stepped up and played well.”

While the Cougars were starting to have more success on the offensive end, they were struggling to slow down the Crusaders on the defensive end.

“(Gregory) tore us to shreds,” said Waldron. “We tried a lot of things and none of it worked. But as the season goes on we will have more options to slow down someone like that. We just aren’t there yet. It’s going to come though during the season.

“They are well coached. They have some talented players. We had more size but we struggled against them tonight.”

Davis Walsworth led Creek with 14 points followed by Hill with 13 points and Norris with 10.

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