GREENFIELD — Greenfield-Central was going to enjoy this one.
After snatching defeat from the jaws of victory many times during a six-game losing streak, the Cougars were the definition of clutch during the fourth quarter of their 56-44 win over visiting county foe Eastern Hancock Saturday night, converting 20-of-21 free throws to claim their first victory over an in-state school this season.
With his team celebrating to the tune of Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” in the locker room, G-C coach Josh Johnson recounted how the Cougars (2-13) earned their first victory since topping Fox Creek Christian (Ky.) 71-57 on Jan. 3.
“It was great. I’m so happy for the kids more than anything right now,” the fifth-year coach said. “Between the third and fourth quarters, I said, ‘Guys you’ve been in more of these than probably anybody in the state, these tight games. We’ve had that practice.’”
Johnson’s team had been 0-9 in game decided by 12 points or less.
“Our schedule has prepared us. I thought our guys prevailed and did an excellent job of keeping their composure and just taking care of the little things. We knocked down our free throws; we didn’t have that many turnovers. I thought we did an outstanding job,” Johnson said. “And, overall, did we need it? Yeah. We really did. It was important for us to get it. I think it’s something we’ve been waiting on. I think we can springboard from it. We have two away games next weekend, and we can go get ‘em. They got to taste it.”
The Cougars held a slim 2-point advantage at 33-31 entering the final frame. It was about that time the Royals (9-3), winners of eight in a row, lost their cool — which played a major role in them losing a game for the first time since Dec. 20.