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Lions Contract Cat Scratch Fever

   The sectional kicked off with great expectations on Tuesday night inside North Daviess’ tight Cougar Den confines.  The black and gold of Loogootee filled the east side of the gym while the west was mostly a sea of orange.  The opening round tourney match-up was a sequel to the early January contest that went the way of the Lions when Patrick Bowling’s last second jumper caged the Cougs’ 44-43.  This time around, however, North Daviess put the heat on early, and although the Lions clawed their way back, Loogootee made their earliest exit in sixteen years, losing the catfight 57-47.
    ND got the tip, and the Lions’ 3-2 zone defense allowed Lucas Swartzentruber to nail the first trey; on the following offensive possession, his rebound put-back made the score 5-0.  Then, Thomas Nugent splashed a 3 with a man in his mug as North Daviess jumped ahead 8-0.  Brett Mattingly got a basket back but Nugent responded with a baseline ‘j’ for a 10-2 bulge two minutes into the contest.  At 4:58, Nugent hit for an old-fashioned three-point play, and a time down the floor later, Jacob Miller scored a lay-in for a 15-2 lead.  Bowling drained two charity tosses to cut the visitors’ deficit to eleven; however, John Baugh picked up his second personal on defense, and Kendall Wittmer hit the hoop on the out-of-bounds play that ensued.  Tyler Trambaugh splashed a three-ball with just under three minutes in the first period, and after Miller bricked two free throws, Ben Hogan went hard to the tin for his own bucket-and-one.  Roland Slaubaugh popped a 3 to get Loogootee within 17-13 but Miller’s left-handed jumper was good on the other end.  Mattingly’s spin move was up and in as ND maintained a 19-15 lead at the end of one frame.
    Trambaugh stroked a 3 to open the scoring in the second, bringing the Lions to within a point, 19-18.  Miller, this time, got both freebies, but after a Bowling field goal miss, Nugent promptly missed both at the line.  Bowling immediately atoned, though, with a strong left-handed drive through the lane for a reverse lay-in.  Coach Mike Wagoner took a timeout at 5:12 down 21-20.  Nugent got 2-2 at the line on his next opportunity, but Slaubaugh’s three-bomb tied the score at 23 with just under four minutes to play in the half.  Nugent got free inside to get his squad back in front by two.  Several back-and-forth offensive trips came up empty for both teams before Miller hit 1-2 in the double bonus at 1:42 for a three-point advantage.  The Lions elected to hold for the last shot realizing they had the ball coming out after intermission, but Hogan’s three try from in front of the North Daviess student section came up short just before the horn sounded.  Down 17-4 just four minutes in, Loogootee had trimmed the halftime score to 26-23.
    Both teams missed twice down the court to open the second half of play before Baugh connected on a nice lay-in to move the scoreboard to 26-25 with just under 6:30 showing.  A three by Wittmer hiked the margin back to four before Slaubaugh, who was harmed on a three-point attempt, calmly stuck three straight to narrow the gap back to a single digit.  Logan Wagler responded with a 3, but at 1:20, Trambaugh dropped a dime in the corner to Slaubaugh and his release was true, again getting his teammates to within one, 32-31.  The Cougars could not get a basket in the last minute and a half as the score remained the same heading into the final eight-minute stanza.
    Nugent picked up a quick deuce off a screen to get the fourth frame underway, but Slaubaugh swished another trifecta to tie the game for the second and final time, 34-34.  Wittmer coolly got the three-point lead back by canning his own home run, Wagler made 1-2 at the line, and after a turnover, Wagler continued the 7-0 spurt with another long triple at 6:04.
    Mattingly stopped the bleeding at the five-minute marker with a lay-up, the scoreboard reading 41-36 in favor of the hosts.  Wittmer kept up the three-point barrage as the Cougars went up 44-36 with a little more than four minutes on the clock.  At 3:41, Wittmer again scored, this time with a 1-2 performance at the line.  Less than a minute later, Miller canned two straight, and suddenly, the lead had ballooned to double figures at 47-36.  The scoring drought, lasting nearly four minutes, was more than the Lions could overcome.  Bowling buried two free throws with 1:46, and 16 seconds later, Slaubaugh was able to stick 2-3 at the line after being hacked from a distance to get the game to 49-40.  Miller and then Nugent assured their team of moving on by hitting all of their tosses while in the double bonus.  Baugh got two from the line, but Wagler’s 1-2 bumped the margin to a dozen, 54-42, with just under a minute to play.  Mattingly and senior Jared Mann, hindered by a knee injury all season long, hit 3-4 free throws as time ran out on the six senior Loogootee boys.
    Slaubaugh pumped in 17 to conclude his four-year Lion career.  Bowling struck for eight, and Trambaugh and Mattingly finished with six each, Baugh four, and Mann and Hogan three.  Tyler Bratton and Josh Divine, who split the point position all season long, could not dent the scoring column.  For North Daviess, who must re-group quickly to face sectional favorite Barr-Reeve on Friday night at 6:00 p.m., Nugent picked up 16, eight coming in the opening quarter.  Miller scored 15, including 11-14 at the charity stripe.  Wittmer hit for a dozen, with three critical 3’s in the second half.  Wagler chipped in eight, perhaps none bigger than the long-distance dagger that bumped the score from 38-34 to 41-34, virtually taking the wind out of the Loogootee comeback sails.  Swartzentruber’s five came when he made the first two baskets out of the gate while Nelson Graber added one late free throw.
    Coach Mike Wagoner’s first year was a successful one.  The squad’s effort in the summer and fall helped the varsity program triple their win output to 12 and cut the losses in half from a season ago.  And, while 12-9 may not sparkle and unfortunately did not produce a sectional title, the black-and-gold faithful seemed to enjoy the change of pace to an up-tempo style as well as embrace the work ethic from the six seniors and underclassmen who should be proud of their turnaround.  Divine will return as a senior to handle the point, and Baugh and Hogan, as juniors, should be counted on to help the offense.  A bevy of incoming juniors and a very talented eighth grade group coming through the ranks will have to plug several spots on the varsity roster in order to duplicate or surpass this year’s win total.  Wagoner and assistant Mike Wininger are more than capable of putting the pieces together based on what they were able to accomplish this season.
-Photo by Larry Hembree
Senior Tyler Trambaugh drives around the defender in sectional action Tuesday night. The Lions lost control of the game in the second half and were defeated 57-47.
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