Crawford County’s long Ranger had the range in the clutch.
With the Class 2-A No. 10 Wolfpack needing an escape route from North Harrison on Friday night, junior guard Ranger Caffrey swished a 3-pointer from the key with 30 seconds left in overtime, propelling Crawford to a thrilling 64-60 victory and its sixth straight triumph in the series.
Caffrey’s bomb gave the Wolfpack a 62-60 lead, and the Cougars (7-8) could not counter despite two good looks from their two best. Cory Smith, who had hit three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and overtime, rimmed his last one. Austin Nolot, who scored a game-high 23 points, snatched that rebound and misfired from the paint.
Crawford’s Brandon Cate finally wrestled away the loose-ball rebound and cashed in two free throws with 3.8 seconds left as the Wolfpack (12-3) dug deep for a wild win. The Wolfpack went almost an entire week without practice following the latest snow storm, and had only a brief walk-through during the afternoon before the road trip.
Veteran CC coach Mike Brown depended on his team’s character trait — effort. And they needed it, posting a momentum-building win as they battle through a five-game run on the road.
“I didn’t know how we would play,” Brown said. “With this team, I know every night I will get effort. There were a lot of effort plays we had to have, and we got. We come with hard hats on ready to go. That translates to how we’re playing on the court.”
North Harrison had its chance to end Crawford County’s recent dominance. The Cougars owned a 53-50 lead and possession in the final minute of regulation, but a key turnover set up Cate’s dash for a three-point play with 44.2 seconds left. Another turnover cost the Cougars the final shot.
North Harrison didn’t make many mistakes, but those were the difference makers.
“It was more untimely turnovers than anything else,” North Harrison coach Greg Walters said. “We made a couple of poor decisions, and they made us pay for it.”
The best decision was to find Nolot, who played a brilliant second half. He made eight straight shots at one point, yet the Cougars could never get more than one-possession daylight between themselves and their foe.
Crawford County’s biggest lead was 31-25 late in the first half. The rest of the 36 minutes was played shoulder to shoulder, eye to eye, seeing who would blink. The Wolfpack refused.
“We came up with a couple of big steals that really saved us,” Brown said. “That’s what rivalries are for. We get big plays by different people on different nights. We have a different guy step up every night.”
This time, it was Jacob Mauck, who scored 17 points, including 10 during a second-quarter burst. It was Caffrey, who finished with 16 and hit three treys in the process. And it was big man Ethan McMonigle, who had 12 points and 12 rebounds. Once CC found a way to work around the defensive pressure of North Harrison guard Joseph Hinton, it found some offense.
“We’ve been after Jacob to score a little more,” Brown said. “He can get to the basket. He’s quick. What we tried to do is pick on people that weren’t Hinton. And the kids did a good job of finding Ranger when he was open.”
The game featured 11 ties, the last at 57-57 in overtime, and 12 lead changes, the last on Caffrey’s trey.
– Jacob Mauck 17, Zach Thomas 8, Ethan McMonigle 12, Ranger Caffrey 16, Brandon Cate 9, Drake Melton 2.Crawford County (12-3)
– Alex Flock 9, Austin Nolot 23, Joseph Hinton 8, Cory Smith 14, Cameron Mink 2, Dylan Knopp 2, Gage Arnold 2.North Harrison (7-8)
– Mauck 1, Caffrey 3, Flock 1, Nolot 1, Hinton 2, Smith 3.3-point goals