GREENFIELD — It’s never too late in the season to learn a lesson, but on Thursday night, the Greenfield-Central Cougars weren’t expecting homework.
Coming out hot from the opening tip, the Cougars built a 17-point lead against the visiting Plainfield Quakers only to watch it vanish by the end of regulation as Greenfield-Central eventually lost 86-79 in overtime.
The loss snapped the Quakers (13-9) two-game skid, while handing the Cougars (7-15) their second defeat in five games to wrap up the regular season.
“It’s very frustrating, especially knowing the stuff that could have kept us ahead was just fundamental stuff,” Greenfield-Central senior Will O’Connor said after the loss. “Free throws, we missed a bunch down the stretch. We missed a couple of rebounds and put them on the line. It was all fundamental stuff we could have prevented.”
The biggest culprit were turnovers for the Cougars as they lost possession nine times in the fourth quarter. Greenfield-Central led 58-44 at the start of the final quarter, but Plainfield’s press led to a 12-4 run and later an 8-1 run to cut the deficit to a two-possession game with less than two minutes remaining.
“We knew they were going to take chances and come after us and be aggressive. Being down 14 points and one quarter to go, you only have one option and that’s to be aggressive,” Cougars head coach Lukas Haworth said. “That’s a situation you work on a lot and you just hope you take care of the ball. And you take advantage of their pressure, but unfortunately, Plainfield was little bit quicker to the ball.”
O’Connor posted a game-high 32 points with five rebounds, finishing 8 of 8 from the foul line, but the Cougars’ shooting percentage gradually dropped after converting 60 percent from the field in the first half.
In the third, Greenfield-Central shot 6 of 11 from the floor and had 11 3-pointers, including six from O’Connor, but the Quakers’ top scorers awoke as the night wore on.
Gavin Bizeau, a 6-foot-11 Duquesne four-star recruit, was held to five points in the first half, but he finished with 19 and nine rebounds. He entered the night averaging 21.7 points and 11.3 rebounds.
Fellow Quaker senior Trey Davis doubled his average with 22 points, while Same Siegfried energized Plainfield with a pair of dunks en route to 13 points.
Cameron Shurig added 18 points off the bench as Plainfield score 28 points in the fourth quarter and 40 in the second half compared to Greenfield-Central’s 28.
“Ultimately, if we don’t turn it over, they don’t score enough to come back,” Haworth said.
Everything clicked for the Cougars in the first half. Back-to-back steals and buckets by Jacob Cochran and a 3-pointer at the buzzer by O’Connor put Greenfield-Central up 22-16 after the first quarter.
An and-1 putback by Brian Long over Bizeau at the horn before halftime pushed the Cougars’ lead to 44-32.
The lead reached 17 points in the third quarter, first off an O’Conner post jumper at 50-33, then later on an and-1 from Logan Graddy with 3:55 left in the frame.
Matt Turner finished with 17 points for the Cougars and Long had 12 points with seven rebounds.
A mid-range jumper by Davis tied the game at 70-all with 23 seconds on the clock, and both teams stood deadlocked at 72 the final 10 seconds of regulation.
In overtime, the Quakers converted 8 of 11 free throws to seal their come-from-behind victory. They were 19 of 27 for the game from the charity stripe. Greenfield-Central went 16 of 21 and 9 of 14 in the second half.
“We kind of started playing stall ball the last three minutes, and that led to turnovers when we stopped driving the gaps. Come next week, if we are in a situation where we are ahead late, we can’t just stall it,” O’Connor said. “We have to take those layups and driving lanes. That will be huge for us against Connersville in the sectional.”
The Cougars open the Class 4A Richmond Sectional on Tuesday against Connersville (20-4) at 6 p.m.