NU’s Preston Crabtree leaps for a shot while Shawnee defenders attempt to block the attempt. Crabtree tallied 11 points during the Wildcats’ 50-48 loss.
(Journal-Tribune photo by Sam Dillon)
The young North Union boys basketball team is a program that is on the cusp of being something special.
However, the senior-less squad still has some work to do before it can call itself “solid.”
With their second consecutive single-possession loss, this time to Springfield Shawnee, 50-48, the Wildcats sit at 6-4 on the season.
The Wildcats came off the tip with a slow and methodical approach. They probed the Braves’ tight man coverage to see where the lanes may be.
They quickly discovered those lanes where hard to find.
“They (Shawnee) are very disciplined and good at defense,” said North Union assistant coach Eric Shields. “We just couldn’t get anything going on offense. We couldn’t get any momentum. We just couldn’t get it stretched out.”
Despite the disciplined defense, the Wildcats were able to take a 10-8 lead at the end of the opening stanza with a trey from Connor Terrill and some nice drives down the lane from Gavin Webb, Preston Crabtree and Harley Day.
In the second quarter. the Wildcats found their groove behind Day, who tallied seven points.
NU continued to push the tempo by switching to a pressing defense that created some early havoc for Shawnee.
“We were trying to keep them uncomfortable and maybe get a couple steals,” Shields said. “We wanted to get the game faster and let them make some mistakes.”
Despite the mistakes, Shawnee was able to keep its offense driving with a dump pass across the paint that went unguarded.
The Wildcats, though, took their largest lead of the game, 27-23, into the locker room with the help of a last second three-ball from Day.
After the turn, the Braves came out of the gates with a high tempo, aggressive defense. That pressured NU into some sloppy passing that turned into early points that tied the game at 27.
The Wildcats answered with an aggressive defense of their own by returning to the press.
The two teams went at each other over the next six minutes, which led to a 37-37 stalemate by the end of the third quarter.
The Braves took the early momentum in the fourth period, sinking back-to-back shots to take a 41-37 lead.
The Cats quickly found their stride with a deep three by Terrill. Crabtree followed up with a layup after a no-look pass from Trevyn Feasel in the low post.
The two teams continued to swap the lead until the final 30 seconds when the Braves knotted the score at 48.
The Cats took the ball to corner on a pass to Crabtree. With 16 seconds left, he drove the baseline and was tagged with a charging foul.
The Wildcats continued their press on the inbounds.
Feasel got a hand on the ball for a steal, but couldn’t find the bottom of the net on the layup atempt.
The Braves quickly tossed a pass down the court where Shawnee had a three-on-one breakaway.
The ball went in the hoope for the game winning layup as time expired.
Despite the heartbreaking finish, Shields believes the Cats can learn something from this game.
“At the end, it was just a couple of young kid mistakes,” he said. “We shouldn’t have shot it at 16 seconds. We should get the last shot. We shouldn’t be missing layups.
“It is going to happen at times, but just as long as we learn from it.”
The Wildcats will return to the court on Friday as they travel to St. Paris Graham.
Siemen 9-0-19, Hayden 4-2-10, 3-0-10, Lyons 3-0-7, Mitch 2-0-4. Totals 21-2-50.
Three-point goals: Fultz 2, Siemen 1, Lyons 1
Day 6-0-13, Terrill 3-2-11, Crabtree 5-1-11, Webb 2-0-5, Feasel 2-0-4, Burgraff 2-0-4. Totals 20-3-48.
Three-point goals: Terrill 3, Day 1, Webb 1.
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