By TRAVIS MILLER Kokomo Tribune
---- — NOBLESVILLE — Kokomo’s boys basketball team knew the Noblesville Holiday Tournament would present three tough opponents to close out the 2013 portion of the schedule. Friday’s games against Lawrence North and Class 3A No. 2-ranked Guerin Catholic continued a stretch of difficult matchups, and Kokomo dropped both in hard-fought contests.
Lawrence North beat Kokomo 61-54 in Friday’s opener. Guerin Catholic topped the Wildkats 50-42 in overtime in the fourth game of the day.
The night game was perhaps the most heartbreaking for the Wildkats as they had a chance for a victory with 33 seconds left in regulation, but Mykal Cox missed a free throw after hitting his first to tie the game at 35-35. Kokomo got a defensive stop at the other end to force overtime, but the Golden Eagles went on for the 50-42 win. Guerin had dropped an OT decision to Bloomington South earlier in the day.
“We showed phenomenal resolve [Friday], but it wasn’t quite enough,” Kokomo coach Brian McCauley said. “This was a tough one and we had our chances. Guerin Catholic is a really tough ballclub. We had a couple of turnovers in the overtime and you’re not going to beat a good club like Guerin when you do that.”
Kokomo (2-5) and Guerin (8-1) went back and forth the entire game with neither team able to pull away. There were six ties and 11 lead changes as the Kats held the up-tempo Eagles in check for only 35 points in regulation, well below their season average of 64.7.
In the overtime, however, Guerin was able to get out in front and make some plays. Whit Rapp scored off of the opening overtime tipoff and after Kokomo tied it with a basket by Erik Bowen, Matt Holba put Guerin in front 40-37 with a 3-pointer from the corner.
Guerin scored 15 points in the overtime session, which was more than any quarter to that point and more than it had in the first and fourth quarters combined.
“We talked about what you can control and what you can’t and [against Guerin], there were a lot of things we could control that went against us,” McCauley said. “It’s little things like a tipped pass that leads to a steal. Those end up being big in the end.”
Kokomo led 7-5 after one quarter and 17-16 at halftime. The game was tied after three quarters. Rapp had a steal and coast-to-coast layup with 3:30 left in regulation that put Guerin in front 35-32, but Kokomo shut out the Eagles for the rest of regulation.
Unfortunately for Kokomo, the Kats struggled to crack Guerin’s defense. Brad Dockemeyer hit a pair of free throws with just over two minutes left after a big offensive rebound, but Kokomo could not get any more than Cox’s free throw with 33 seconds left that tied the game.
Guerin’s Aaron Brennan and Kokomo’s Bowen battled in the paint. Brennan finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds with five of his points coming in the overtime. Bowen led Kokomo with 15 points and eight rebounds. He also had two assists and two blocks.
Cox also had another solid night at the point for Kokomo with eight points and seven assists.
LAWRENCE NORTH 61, KOKOMO 54
In the first game of the day, Kokomo played a rematch of its 1989 state championship game against Lawrence North. Like that game almost 25 years ago, this one went in favor of the Wildcats, and not the ones from the City of Firsts with the slightly different spelling.
Lawrence North, which has a victory over a Marion team that cruised past Kokomo last week, used its superior athleticism to break open a 10-10 tie late in the first quarter and earn a 61-54 victory. Perry Poindexter, once one of the top recruiting targets in Indiana for 2014, had 14 points, five rebounds, and four blocked shots for the Wildcats.
“This is a team that can attack well and we did the way we did not give up and keep fighting,” McCauley said. “Sometimes it is not how you start, but how you finish. Mykal Cox certainly didn’t start well, but he finished with 17 points and six assists.”
Lawrence North kept Kokomo at bay by having an excellent day shooting. After hitting 50 percent of its shots from the field in the first half, the Wildcats shot a blistering 85.7 percent from the floor in the second half by hitting 12 of 14 shots. Combined with a 15 of 17 performance from the line (including a perfect 10 of 10 in the second half), Kokomo had a very difficult time cutting into a 26-17 halftime lead.
The Kats did have a bit of a run in the third quarter when they cut the deficit to 26-19 with the opening basket, but a missed layup led to a breakout where LN’s Josh Thompson hit a corner 3-pointer. Thompson then scored in transition after a steal and that proved to be a key seven-point swing.
Kokomo eventually trailed by as much as 17 at 53-36 in the fourth quarter, but the Kats had a lot of fight left in them. Cox and Jordan Matthews helped to force 19 total turnovers in the backcourt as Kokomo trimmed the lead to eight points with just over a minute to go. Unfortunately, McCauley made an error in calling for a timeout when his team had none.
“That was just a mistake by me,” McCauley said. That was my fault and I apologize because they were able to hit four free throws and push it back up to 12 there. Still, we made some plays by attacking them in the backcourt and attacking the basket.”
In addition to the strong game from Cox, who also had six steals, Bowen had 16 points and five rebounds despite battling in the post with several tall, athletic LN defenders. Jordan Matthews came off the bench to chip in 10 points, four rebounds and four steals.
For Lawrence North, Daeshon Francis, a signee with Wisconsin-Green Bay, had 13 points and four assists, while Thompson had 11.
NOBLESVILLE TOURNEY FRIDAY Lawrence North 61, Kokomo 54 Bloom. South 60, Guerin Catholic 56, OT New Haven 70, South Bend Adams 52 Guerin Catholic 50, Kokomo 42, OT Bloom. South 56, Noblesville 50 TODAY Lawrence North vs. S.B. Adams, 10 a.m. Guerin Catholic vs. New Haven, noon S.B. Adams vs. Bloomington South, 4 p.m. New Haven vs. Lawrence North, 6 p.m. Kokomo at Noblesville, 8 p.m.