In a game much closer than the final score indicates, the Logan County Cougars fell to the Franklin-Simpson Wildcats 46-84 in Franklin on Friday night.
It was last season, almost a year to the day, when the Wildcats were beaten by the Cougars at LCHS, 48-56. In that game a year ago the Wildcats’ star Tavin Lovan was injured early on. With Lovan out of the lineup, the Wildcats would lose twice as many games as they won.
Lovan was back on Friday night.
In a packed gym in Franklin, Wildcat fans saw their star player start the gem with a dunk, then a blocked shot, as the home team got an early 9-0 lead over the Cougars.
Perhaps slightly overwhelmed at the start, the Cougars dug deep and after the rocky start, Lorenzo Garcia’s 3-point basket at 4:40 in the first quarter put the Cougars on the scoreboard.
Noah Whittinghill, who would have a terrific game, quickly made a 3-pointer and made the score 6-9.
At 3:00 minutes to go in the first quarter, Austin Rayno put a beautiful fake move on Lovan, getting the Wildcat off his feet and flying, then stepping aside and sinking a 3-pointer. Rayno’s basket kept the Cougars close at 9-14.
Lovan continued to thrill the hometown crowd with occasional dunks and sharp passing.
It was the Cougars’ sharp shooting that kept the game close. And it was scrappy, hustling defensive play that gave the Cougars’ shooters many opportunities.
After the first quarter the Cougars trailed the Wildcats 15-23.
The Wildcats were able to grind out a bigger lead into the second quarter. Still, the Cougars refused to roll over. Three-point shooting and hustle kept the visitors within striking distance. At 4:36 to go in the half, and trailing 18-35, Cougars Head Coach Lonnie Mason called a timeout.
After the timeout, with renewed energy and fresh breath, the Cougars exhibited the ball movement and sharp passing that Cougar Nation has come to expect of Mason’s teams of recent years.
A short base-line jumper by Rayno, followed quickly by a basket from Whittinghill, made the score 24-41 and caused a Wildcat timeout.
In the closing moments of the first half, this physical contest nearly crossed the line. Players diving for the loose ball at one point resulted in bodies slamming to the hard court. Rayno, toppled by a tangle of Wildcat players, had a frightening moment when his head crashed to the floor. After the referees held a meeting among themselves, then a meeting with each coach, the audience found Rayno at the free throw line for two technical free-throws. He hit both shots and brought the Cougars to within 17 points at 30-47.
The score at halftime, 49-30, in favor of the home team Wildcats.
The second half opened similar to the first. Lovan scored his team’s first six points. A drive inside by Lorenzo Garcia was the Cougars’ first points.
Scrappy play, creating opportunity out of chaos, and the Cougars’ speed, kept the game exciting. Whittinghill, Garrison Rosser, and Jack Wright were among the Cougars on the court playing hard.
In spite of the guts shown, the Cougars could not keep pace with the Wildcats in their home, and hostile, environment. The final score, Wildcats 84, Cougars 46.
On January 22 of the New Year the Wildcats will visit the Cougars. The sixth-man home court crowd will make a difference.
With the victory the wildcats got to 5-0 for the year (including 1-0 in District 13).
The Cougars were led in scoring by Noah Whittinghill with 19 points. Austin Rayno added 10 points and Lorenzo Garcia added seven points. Will Bingham, Mykal Hampton, Garrison Rosser, Sedale Shannon, and Jack Wright also scored. Hampton, Whittinghill, and Wright were all tied for most rebounds with four each.
The Cougars, now 1-3 overall and 1-1 in District play, next travel to Bowling Green to face Warren Central on Monday December 11.