LEWISBURG — National Trail stayed focused just long enough to hold off Tri-County North 74-63 last week in a boys Cross County Conference basketball game.
While both coaches admitted their teams lost focus at times during the game, it was the Blazers who regrouped in time to hold on for the win on Tuesday, Jan. 6.
“I’ll give North a lot of credit. I thought we had them at a spot where we could have put them away. I mean, we’re up 16 in the first half and we’re up 16 in the second half again,” Trail coach Mike Harrison said.
Trail raced out to a 22-8 lead after the first quarter and led by as many as 16 in the second before North rallied to close within a 34-29 at the half.
“They kept battling,” Harrison said of North. “So you know, as a coach of my team, I got to look at that and try to figure out why defensively we just tend to lose our focus. I mean, we just got off a game that we lost a 13 point lead and weren’t able to hang on to it. I think there’s times we try to get to cute. Things are going our way and instead of just, it’s almost like we get bored being solid, we want to try to be flashy. We want to make the perfect pass. We just got to stay the course a little bit better on both ends. Defensively, we start trying to block shots or overrun passing lanes. It’s just being solid. We’ve got to learn to maintain our focus on being solid at both ends, longer. It just gets gets away from us. But I also want to give North credit because they hit shots, and they didn’t stop coming, they kept playing hard, even though some teams might roll over at that point.”
Trail begin the second half with a 14-0 run to take a 48-29 lead with 5:56 to play.
But once again, North fought back. The Panthers closed to within 51-46 with just under two minutes left in the quarter, but trailed 58-49 at the quarter break.
The Blazers lead never got below seven in the final quarter. Trail was a perfect 9-for-9 from the foul line in the final eight minutes, most coming in the final 1:30 of the game.
“We protected the ball enough to get to the free throw line and we were nine for nine. I knew we were making them, but that’s big. Because we’re looking for any way to stop these runs when they’re making them,” Harrison said. “We missed a couple layups during one of those runs but hitting free throws down the stretch certainly helps.”
Senior Cameron Harrison led Trail with 35 points and nine assists.
“It was nice to sit Cameron hot. And it was nice to see some guys attacking the offensive glass. So, I thought we moved the ball well in both of those runs where we made our run,” Coach Harrison said.
Tyler Weathington added 11 points, 11 rebounds and six assists and Wyatt House contributed nine points, all in the second half.
“Wyatt hit a couple shots. I thought Tyler’s energy in the second half, he came out with, that he didn’t have in the first half, led to that run. That run in the third quarter started with him running the floor, hard, and I thought that was big. I don’t know how many points he ended up with, but it wasn’t that him running hard got him some baskets it got some other guys some baskets,” Coach Harrison said.
Elijah Stewart tossed in 10 points, including four late points to stop a North rally.
“Eli Stewart is a kid who is a new kid this year, and I thought he had his best game so far,” Coach Harrison said. “It’s nice to see, super kid who works hard, and like a lot of kids, it’s a confidence thing and just which comes first, the confidence or the good game? And it was nice to see him put it all together tonight because he really helped us out.”
For North coach Joe Smith the game had a familiar theme.
“The lapses in our defense is what really hurt us tonight. We’re down five going into third quarter and they score 15 straight. You can’t do that and they scored 15 and in two minutes. I look up and it’s six minutes in the quarter and I’m like, Wow, that’s really quick,” Smith said.
“But then we battled back. I think we cut it down to five again, maybe, it might even been four but, then we have another lapse where they score 10. I told them in basketball there’s streaks, but or runs, but you just can’t have multiple of that.
“It’s killed us every game this year. We’re 1-6. But every game we’ve been right there. Every game this year there’s been runs that we just don’t stop the opponents from having. We need to build that tough defensive mentality.
Luke Eby paced the Panthers with 22 points.
“Luke is a very underestimated player. It’s about confidence with Luke. He’s starting to see that he can score with almost anybody,” Smith said.
Ethan Rike scored a career-high 20 points for North.
“The big thing for him is he’s got to learn to, and he did it tonight, allow the game come to him and kind of see where he needs to fit in,” Smith said.
Cooper Cole contributed 11.
“Cooper had a good game. He’s played very consistent for us all season. He’s done really well I think this year with just being positive and not getting frustrated during the games,” Smith said.
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4061 or follow on Twitter @emowenjr