TERRE HAUTE —
Threatening to interfere with Thanksgiving lunches throughout southern Indiana, Terre Haute North needed four overtimes —yes, four — to edge visiting Evansville Central 84-83 in one of the wildest season-opening boys high school basketball games in recent memory late Wednesday night.
“It’s definitely the longest game I’ve ever played in,” North starting forward Austin Lewis told the Tribune-Star afterward. “It was fun. It was a good way to start off the season. Our team battled through a lot of adversity throughout the game and we came out with a win.”
“I think this is a group that understands what it takes to win,” North coach Todd Woelfle said of his players. “They know how to win. They’ve been in a lot of big games and I think our experience paid off at times tonight. They didn’t get rattled at the end.”
This marathon slugfest was a scorebook keeper’s nightmare and a fan’s delight, although it started fairly normal after the visiting Bears won the junior varsity contest (in overtime).
North trailed 16-15 after the first quarter, 30-28 at halftime and 48-42 after three quarters.
Here’s where it starts to get interesting.
Evansville Central opened the fourth period with a 3-pointer by Jalen Bender and a pair of free throws by John Powers to create its largest margin of the night — 11 — at 53-42 with 7:10 remaining in regulation.
After the Patriots cut their deficit to 60-53, Lewis converted a layup following a steal by teammate Casey Vickers.
Lewis quickly got into the thievery act himself, pilfering the ball at midcourt and driving for another layup to pull North within 60-57 with 1:54 left.
Much to the disbelief of the Evansville Central coaching staff, Lewis was able to repeat his steal-layup combination a mere 15 seconds later to make the score 60-59.
North’s Steven Davis then pulled off the same combination — from a slightly different spot on the court — but the result was the same and North seized a 61-60 advantage with 1:22 to go.
“We had been having a very hard time containing their point guard, [Kourtlandt] Martin,” Woelfle explained. “He hurt us a lot, so we went to a little halfcourt trap [on defense] and we were active in it. The steals happened right after we went to the trap.”
Powers countered with an inside bucket and Bender later added a steal that led to his own field goal to give the Bears a 64-61 lead with 2.3 seconds left on the scoreboard.
After two timeouts, North’s Nathan Jahn inbounded from near the Evansville Central basket to midcourt, where teammate Calvin Blank caught it and fired a quick pass to Davis on the right wing.
Davis put up a running, right-handed 30-footer that swished through the net, tying the score at 64-64, sending the home fans into a frenzy and forcing the first extra period.
“He’s a good shooter,” Woelfle said of Davis. “I had no problem going back to him [after a few misses by Davis earlier].”
With 49 seconds left in the first OT, Jahn sank a trey from the left corner to knot the score at 70-70 and that’s where it remained heading into the second OT.
The only points occurring during that four-minute frame were an inside fielder by Blank and a steal/layup by Bender, triggering a third OT with the score sitting at 72-72.
A three-point play and a rebound bucket by Blank catapulted North ahead 77-74 with 2:02 showing on the scoreboard. But Bender put an end to anyone’s hopes that this game might end soon by nailing a 3 with 33 seconds remaining.
Shocked that a fourth overtime was approaching, fans throughout the gym could be seen on their cell phones — no doubt calling relatives to tell them they might be late for Thanksgiving meals.
OK, that might be a slight exaggeration. But 11 p.m. was getting near.
Two pairs of free throws by Blank put North on top 81-77 to open the fourth OT. Evansville Central’s Beau Dedmond answered with a trey from the right corner, cutting the Patriots’ lead to 81-80 with 2:12 to go, but a Lewis bunny pushed the margin to three at 83-80.
Then two free throws by Bender followed by a 1-for-2 effort from the foul line by Bender tied the score at 83-83 with 36 ticks left on the clock.
Could an incredible fifth overtime become reality?
If this were New Year’s Eve instead of Thanksgiving eve, would fans begin a countdown to midnight?
Not this time.
In the final seconds, the Patriots worked for a final shot and Lewis was fouled while attempting one with 2.9 seconds left.
Lewis rimmed out the first charity toss, probably causing spectators to think: “Here we go again.”
But he swished the second attempt for the one-point lead and North called timeout to set up its defense.
“It was definitely nerve-racking after that first one was so close to going in,” Lewis admitted with a chuckle.
When action resumed, Martin — who had torched the home team for 22 points in regulation — launched a midcourt bomb right before the buzzer that would have won the game for his team. But it bounced off the back of the rim and Woelfle’s squad breathed a collective sigh of relief.
Martin ended up leading Evansville Central with 26 points and seven steals, while Bender added 24 points, nine rebounds and four steals and Dedmond contributed 15 points.
For North, the 6-foot-5, 225-pound Blank put up monster numbers — 36 points, 15 rebounds, two steals and one blocked shot. Lewis added 19 points, four steals and three blocks and regulation-hero Davis finished with 13 points and nine boards.
“I thought both teams really battled,” Evansville Central coach Scott Hudson assessed. “It was a great way to open the season.”
Hudson admitted that he had lost track of how many overtimes had taken place near the end.
“Both teams, at different times, had the game,” he noted. “Both teams had a lot of players who made a lot of big plays. … This was almost two games in one.”
EVANSVILLE CENTRAL (83) — Dedmond 7-13 0-0 15, Bender 7-18 7-10 24, Ferguson 1-6 0-0 2, Coffman 2-4 0-0 6, Martin 12-21 2-2 26, Powers 1-3 2-2 4, Sherman 3-4 0-0 6, Walker-Glenn 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 33-68 FG, 11-14 FT, 83 TP.
TERRE HAUTE NORTH (84) — Lewis 8-14 3-6 19, Blank 14-21 7-8 36, Grady 1-1 0-0 2, Davis 4-14 2-2 13, Jahn 1-4 0-0 3, Vickers 2-8 0-0 6, Hart 1-2 0-0 2, Low 1-2 0-0 3. Totals 32-66, 12-16 FT, 84 TP.
Evansville Central 16 14 18 16 6 2 5 6 — 83
Terre Haute North 15 13 14 22 6 2 5 7 — 84
3-point shooting — EC 6-13 (Bender 3-5, Coffman 2-4, Dedmond 1-2, Martin 0-2), THN 8-25 (Davis 3-11, Vickers 2-6, Jahn 1-2, Low 1-2, Blank 1-3, Lewis 0-1). FG Pct. — EC .478, THN .485. FT Pct. — EC .786, THN .750. 3-pt. FG Pct. — EC .462, THN .320. Total fouls — EC 15, THN 16. Fouled out — none. Rebounds — EC 37 (Bender 9, Dedmond 6, Powers and Sherman 4, Martin 3, Ferguson and Coffman 2, team 7), THN 37 (Blank 15, Davis 9, Jahn 3, Lewis and Grady 2, Vickers and Low 1, team 4). Steals — EC 16 (Martin 7, Bender 4, Coffman 2, Dedmond, Ferguson and Sherman), THN 9 (Lewis 4, Blank and Davis 2, Vickers). Blocks — EC 1 (Dedmond), THN 6 (Lewis 3, Blank, Davis and Low). Turnovers — EC 13, THN 19.
JV — Evansville Central 48 (Raesheide Bell 12, Jalen Pemberton 11), North 41 (C.J. Brown 12, Charlie Aimone 10) in OT.
Next — North (1-0) will play Saturday at Fishers. Evansville Central (0-1) will be at home Nov. 30 to face Washington.