GREENFIELD — On a night in which Greenfield-Central honored its four-year players, it was a Rushville junior who stole the show.
Alex Yurack scored 14 points in the fourth quarter of a furious Rushville rally, and the visiting Lions went on to defeat the Cougars 72-64 in overtime Friday.
“He couldn’t miss,” Greenfield-Central coach Michael Lewis said. “We knew he was a shooter, and they did a good job running him off screens. But, he got too loose. I wasn’t pleased with our defensive awareness. We have to do a better job.”
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Through three quarters, Yurack, a 6-foot-4 wing, and the Lions (15-6) seemed content to let the Cougars (9-13) enjoy the Senior Night spotlight.
In control from the opening tip, Greenfield-Central took a 43-32 lead into the fourth quarter, with Yurack (13.9 points per game) and 6-foot-6 senior post Nate Niehoff (16.3 ppg) mostly under wraps by an aggressive Greenfield-Central defense. Yurack had seven points on just three baskets heading into the final quarter, while Niehoff had 10 points on three field goals and four free throws.
“Through three quarters, we were doing everything right,” said Lewis, adding that there was no solace to be taken in a mostly solid effort. “Not at this point in the year. There’s no excuse for the way we played (in the fourth quarter).
“We got comfortable. And that’s what happens when you get comfortable. We lost a game, late. Again.”
The Cougars have given up a number of large leads this season. They built Friday’s advantage with a group effort.
In a Senior Night tradition, Lewis started five of the veterans, who held their own against the Lions, playing to a 5-5 tie late into the first quarter. At that point, a group led by junior Kirill Schoellman checked in and took over, quickly upping the Greenfield-Central advantage to double digits, at 17-7, early in the second quarter. Behind Schoellman’s 10-first half points, the Cougars led 25-18 at the break.
Like Yurack, Greenfield-Central’s standout shooter, Tate Hall, was relatively quiet in the early going. The Cougars’ leading scorer this season at 15.9 points per game, Hall had nine points through the third quarter. As Yurack heated up, so did Hall, who did his best to single-handedly turn back the Lions.
Yurack opened the fourth quarter with two straight scores, the second on a steal-and-dunk. He followed up a Greenfield-Central timeout with another two-pointer, then answered a Hall 3-pointer with a 3-pointer of his own. Hall scored 10 of his team-high 19 points in the fourth quarter, but the Cougars’ inability to take care of the basketball doomed their chances. Back-to-back giveaways late in the fourth quarter led to the Lions’ first second-half lead at 54-52.
The Cougars, with only two turnovers through the first 24 minutes, had five turnovers in the fourth quarter as Rushville’s defensive effort increased.
“We panicked,” Lewis said. “We panicked with the basketball, and I didn’t do a good enough job calming them down.”
Rushville had a 59-57 edge heading to the fourth-quarter buzzer when Hall’s 17-foot fadeaway sent the game to overtime.
In the extra session, the Cougars couldn’t keep the Lions off the free throw line. Rushville quickly pulled away and finished 11-of-14 at the charity stripe in overtime.
“We fought back to send it to overtime, but it should have never got to that,” Lewis added.
Yurack finished with 24 points. Niehoff had 19 points and 12 rebounds.
Schoellman had 13 points. Blake Robertson added seven points. Dallas Pribble and Cole Oleksy had six points each.
Greenfield-Central will wrap up the regular season on the road, today at Avon (5-14) and Thursday at Plainfield (6-13).
Notes: Greenfield-Central won the junior varsity game 50-34. … Pribble, Oleksy, Zach Batton, Geordan Stump, Lane Ferrell and Griffin Lowe were recognized as part of Senior Night festivities. … The Cougars finished 4-6 at home this season.