BY CHRIS STONER
The balanced scoring of North Harrison was simply too much for the Charlestown-led dynamic duo of Aaron Daniel and Chris Braun on Thursday night. The visiting Pirates nearly dug themselves out of a 21-point second-half hole, but in the end it was the Cougars who prevailed 83-74.
Daniel led all scorers with 34 points, including 20 in the fourth period alone, and Braun tallied 27. The senior combo scored all but 13 of Charlestown’s points.
“They’re phenomenal players and they’re having a phenomenal senior year,” Pirates’ coach Sean Smith said of his two leading scorers. “They’re the engine and we need the other parts around them to step up and make some plays. You can’t ask for much more out of them.”
North Harrison (12-4, 6-2 MSC) built a 51-30 lead midway through the third quarter. The Pirates (9-7, 4-4) staged a furious rally to claw within 63-59 on a Daniel steal and layup with 3:56 left in the game, but the visitors would get no closer.
“They turned up the pressure on us and got us out of whack for a bit,” Cougars’ coach Greg Walters said. “I’m proud of our kids for not panicking. I give our kids a lot of credit for staying the course and finishing the game.”
In its previous game, Charlestown trailed Corydon by 18 points in the first half and scrambled back within one before falling to the Panthers. A similar script played out versus North.
“I give our kids a lot of credit for not giving up and fighting their way back into the game,” Smith said. “It just takes so much energy to overcome a big deficit like that in a short amount of time. In the Corydon game, we chipped away at things over a few quarters. But this game we had to do it in just a four- or five-minute stretch.”
North forced five Charlestown turnovers in the first period and rode Tyler Bement’s 11 points to a 17-8 at the first stop. Bement finished with a team-high 25 points, pacing four Cougars in double figures on the night.
“We have four guys in double figures this year,” Walters said. “We’ve been able to share the ball and we have several guys that can score. On any given night if you’re going to take someone away, we’re lucky enough to have other guys that can step up.”
The hosts pushed their lead to 36-22 at halftime. The Pirates shot just 32 percent in the first half, including just 2-of-12 on 3-point attempts.
“We came out ready to play,” Smith said. “The difference is they shot a very good percentage in that first half. They just lit it up. Part of that was we didn’t do a good job of staying in front of guys and defending, but they also just knocked shots down. You have to give them credit. They have a lot of scoring options and kids that can really shoot the basketball. We also missed some points in the paint where guys just didn’t finish.”
After trailing by 17 points at the end of the third, the Pirates poured in 37 fourth-quarter points but fell just short to the high-scoring Cougars. North hit an impressive 17-of-19 fourth-quarter free throws to win its fifth straight and collect its 10th victory in its last 11 contests.
“We just talked about not giving up,” Smith said of his team’s fourth-quarter spurt. “There was a play where they missed a layup and we just gave up and let them get the putback. I called a timeout there and we told the guys that is something that’s just not acceptable. We will not give up and our guys responded.”
Charlestown didn’t get a second-half point from someone not named Daniel or Braun until a Drew Reich bucket at the 6:04 mark of the fourth. Despite only getting 13 points out of players other than his main two guns, Smith was encouraged by what he saw from the rest of his team.
“We had some guys that haven’t had a lot of opportunity on varsity step up tonight,” Smith said. “I thought Gage Martin really played well for us. He defended well for us tonight. I thought Tristan Chester played well. He picked up some big charges for us. Drew Reich had a very good fourth quarter.”
Charlestown will be back in action on Tuesday, hosting New Washington.