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North and South Square Off in Finals
J. C. Tilton

Both North and South had an easy go of it in the opening round of the Preble Shawnee Holiday Basketball Classic. In both cases the Panther teams had big first quarter leads and cruised to victory. North did have an extra weapon in their arsenal as postman Mitch Heltsley made his season debut at the tournament. An all-conference player last season, Mitch had hurt his wrist in the preseason and had to the miss the first few games of the season while it healed.

North slowly gained momentum in their first round game against Shawnee and opened up an 11 point lead. Then in the second quarter they went on a 13-0 run to break the game wide open. At halftime they had a commanding 41-19 lead. Heltsley did not score a basket from the field until late in the second quarter, but did score a total of 15 points for the game, not bad when you consider the North starters sat on the bench for most of the last quarter. The unrelenting North defense kept the pressure on the Arrows as they would win 63-34. Blankenship and Heltsley lead the way offensively with 17 and 15 points respectively.

North coach, Mike Waggoner, was happy to see Heltsley back - “it frees some of the other guys up by taking the pressure off of them. Having his presence on the floor is a big difference.” Part of the game plan was to get off to a strong start, “We got out front early and jumped on them. They did a fair job of rebounding. This team still has to learn how to win, we didn't work with a lead that well. We have struggled with success early and now we need to keep that winning attitude.”

South opened with the National Trail Blazers, team that has also had its share of woes this season. South did not show any mercy as they put on an offensive performance in the first quarter. They threw down 7 three point shots. Three of which were scored by Dale Spitler on South's last three possessions of the quarter. Shawnee could not keep pace and fell behind 32-8. South played mainly a zone, but did press Shawnee in the quarter.

The TVS scoring flurry gradually waned. But the defense stayed strong. They went to the locker room with a 45-14 lead and went into cruise control for the second half. The team had a decisive 60-37 victory when the buzzer sounded. Leading scorers for South were Cory Bassler with 12, Dale Spitler 22, and Steve Summers 11. Coach Augspurger thought the team played well…for one quarter. “I was worried that we were a little too loose in the locker room. I knew we needed to come out and play with intensity. We put the press on them to try and get the tempo up. We did a great job of playing hard and smart, we passed the ball extremely well in the first quarter. We were finding the open shooters. And we played a great first quarter, but from that point on I thought we played lousy. Teams that are great play with intensity and integrity the whole game - we just didn't do that.”

This set up the championship game, a rematch between familiar foes Tri County North and Twin Valley South. From the get go it was a defensive struggle - each basket was earned. North stayed in their man to man defense for most of the game, while South stayed in their aggressive zone. North did mix in the press in the second quarter. While South pressed sporadically in the second half. North was down early, but went on a late first quarter run to end up on top 12-9. As he had in their first match up earlier this season, North's Dan Baumbarger provided a good deal of the opening offense with 8 of North's first half points. Scoring for TVS was mixed with Dale Spitler having a good first quarter and teammate Wes Bassler picking it up in the second. South was able to close the gap in the second quarter and then get the lead to go into the second half up 20-17.

In the second half North was finally able to get Mitch Heltsley some touches. He responded with 6 third quarter points. Ty Dunham added a couple of baskets, but it was not enough to close the gap. South's Cory Bassler scored 6 and Dale Spitler hit 2 free throws and a basket from the field to lead South scoring for the quarter. Going into the last quarter South had a 35-28 lead. Now it became a game of keep away as the sharp passing South team worked time off of the clock every possession. But when an open shot came, they took it. North tried to keep the pressure up, but were unable to make any head way against the South lead. When the horn sounded TVS had won a defensive struggle 45-39. A quiet hero in the South victory was Andy Dawson, who was 3 for 3 from behind the arc, scoring a total of 13 points for South.

“It was a great team effort.” Commented South Coach Tony Augspurger, “We did a good job of winning a gutty game. We had to play with a lot of heart to win. The first time they played us, they outplayed us for three and a half quarters. This game we were where we wanted to be the whole game. We got off to a better start this time. I think that North is going to win a lot of games, they had a real unfortunate start to this season. I have a lot of faith in Mike [Waggoner] and those kids. They are going to start winning games - I just didn't want them to start against us.” He also had accolades for several players, “Andy Dawson was huge for us tonight. He has been a pretty good shooter. When it was 35-39, he hit a big shot with less than a minute left. Both the Basslers had a good game tonight.”

A somber Coach Waggoner was asked for his opinion, “I thought they deserved to win today. They played harder than us, I thought they beat us to the ball, I thought they hustled for rebounds. I thought we would have a distinct advantage inside with our two big guys, but they fought for the ball. We had problems shooting from the foul line. They two to one'ed us on the offensive boards. We didn't execute what we were supposed to do. We leave Andy Dawson alone and he scores 13 points.”

Both teams were well represented on the all tournament team. Souths Dale Spitler was voted the best player overall, also selected were South's Wes Bassler, Trails Dustin Nutt, Shawnee's Logan Cottingim, North's Ethan Blankenship & Dan Baumbarger.

Scoring for TVS: Armstrong 2, C. Bassler 6, W. Bassler 10, Dawson 13, Spitler 12, Summers 2. Scoring for TCN: Baumbarger 13, Bierly 2, Blankenship 5, Dunham 7, Haines 4, Heltsley 8. Comments:

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