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GOSHEN – North Oldham coach Chris Stobaugh has conceded the fact his Mustangs will be locked in close games all year.
“We’re not going to blow anybody out and we’re good enough not to get blown out,” Stobaugh said, “so every game’s going to be close.”
North won another close one Tuesday night, beating Spencer County 53-50 on its home floor.
The Mustangs (8-8) trailed the Bears (6-11) at halftime and barely held off a late Spencer County burst. Bear forward Blake Lambdin missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer that would’ve tied the game at 53-53 and sent it to overtime.
“They’re all running down to the last couple of minutes,” North senior forward Justin Cundiff said. “…We beat down on Atherton and Eminence, too, and kind of overlooked (Spencer County). But we pulled it out.”
North and Spencer County were tied 43-43 early in the fourth quarter when Cundiff scored to put the Mustangs in the lead. Senior forward Paris Hammock then hit a shot to make the score 47-43.
The Mustangs worked possession as the quarter went on, controlling clock while avoiding turnovers.
“It’s not something I believe in," Stobaugh said. "I’m always about ‘Let’s attack, let’s be aggressive,’ because I see so many teams hold the ball for a long time and they hold the ball too long, then they get tight and turn it over. Our guys took care of the basketball. We were fine with that."
Henry found a lane to the basket after a lengthy possession, driving in from the right side and revesing to his left at the basket to hit a layup and make the score 49-43.
Hammock came up big on the other end of the floor, blocking a shot off a Bear offensive rebound to preserve the six-point lead.
Henry appeared to put the game on ice with 1:35 to play with two free throws to make the score 51-43.
But Spencer County hung around, and guard Estevan Cordoba hit a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 51-46 with a minute left.
After North's Trevor Burton missed the front end of a one-and-one, the Bears' Jamie Newnam scored to trim the margin to 51-48. Burton missed the front end of another one-and-one, and Lambdin scored on the other end to make the score 51-50 with less than 20 seconds left.
Cundiff was fouled when the Mustangs got the ball back, and he hit two free throws to push the lead back to 53-50 with 10 seconds to play.
"Had we made a few more free throws down the stretch it wouldn’t have been as close," Stobaugh said, "but Justin stepped up and knocked them in.”
North had a foul to give, so Stoabugh directed his players to foul before the Bears were able to get off the game-tying 3. Burton did just that, reaching in with 3.9 seconds left and fouling the Spencer County offensive player.
“That was perfect," Stobaugh said. "We talked about in the huddle before that we had a foul to give and if we needed to take it, take it. Trevor defended it perfect."
Another second and a half ticked off the clock when the Mustangs deflected the ball out of bounds.
With just 2.4 seconds to get a shot off, the Bears found Lambdin. He took a shot from just behind the arc on the right side of the floor, leaning forward. The shot drew iron and the Mustangs escaped with a win.
Burton led North with 15 points Tuesday. Cundiff, Henry and senior center Adam Klingeman all scored 10 points each.
Cordoba led Spencer County with 13 points.
North now moves on to its first district game of the year, which comes at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Buckner against Oldham County.
The Colonels ended the Mustangs' season in 2012-13 with a 57-40 win in the first round of the District 29 Tournament.
"With a district opponent coming in Friday I was afraid our guys would look past today but they didn’t," Stoabugh said. "We just didn’t play real well in the first half. It feels good now that we have this game over with and we can start focusing on Oldham County and say it out loud because everyone’s thinking it but no one was willing to say it.”
Spencer County – 14, 17, 10, 9 – 50
North Oldham – 20, 8, 13, 12 – 53
Spencer County – Cordoba 13, Fitts 12, Newnam 7, Lambdin 6, Smith 6, Miller 5
North Oldham – T. Burton 15, Cundiff 10, Henry 10, Klingeman 10, C. Burton 3, Hammock 3, Powell 2