By Matt Goisman
HARTSHORNE — The Canadian Cougars played almost error-free in the first half and looked well on their way to beating the 16th-ranked Tushka Tigers on Wednesday night.
Then the third quarter happened, and a bevy of errors swung the game Tushka’s way.
The Tigers overcame an 8-point deficit in the third, coming back to beat the Cougars, 47-41, in Wednesday’s semifinal of the Hartshorne Pick & Shovel Classic at Taylor Gymnasium.
“Had about a three-minute stretch in which I think we turned it over four straight times, and all four led to points,” Canadian coach Daniel Lokey said. “That just comes with the fact that (the Tigers) play such good defense, and they play it for four quarters. So you have to be that mentally tough offensively for four quarters.”
Canadian will play Wister in the third-place game of the tournament. With inclement weather postponing Thursday’s games, tournament officials couldn’t say whether the third-place game would take place Saturday or next week.
Back-to-back baskets by Chase Shearwood pushed Canadian’s lead to 28-20 early in the third, but Tushka responded with an 11-0 run fueled by Canadian turnovers. A bad inbounds pass by Canadian led to an easy fastbreak basket by Garrett Wall, then another turnover led to a layup-free-throw combination by Jody Moreland that made it 28-25 Cougars.
Isaac Cooper’s jump shot cut the lead to 1, then Moreland stole a Canadian pass and scored off a fastbreak give-and-go with Sam Ward to put Tushka up 29-28.
“We basically just started playing better defense,” Tushka coach James Pannell said. “We were a little more disciplined; we followed our defensive rules a lot better; we got more active and aggressive.”
Cooper’s jump shot made it 31-28 Tigers. Cooper led his team with 15 points and also enabled Tushka’s other shooters to get free with his ability to penetrate into the shooting lanes.
“Coach is always telling me, ‘If they always get on you, just play aggressive,’” Cooper said. “So that’s just what I did and I got to the goal.”
Shearwood tied the game 31-31 with a 3-pointer and later 33-33 with a jumper, but Tushka went up for good on a layup by Wyatt Daniel with 1.5 seconds left in the third.
Moreland then hit a 3-point to make it 38-33. Cougar forward Caleb Jarrett’s layup made it 40-35 Tushka, but Cooper and Wall sandwiched layups around a free throw from Daniel to make it 45-35 Tushka and put the game out of reach.
Shearwood led all scorers with 30 points. Jarrett scored 7, but 5 of those points came in the first half.
“I just hit shots in the first half,” Shearwood said. “They got on me in the second half and I couldn’t get open.”
Shearwood scored all but 2 of Canadian’s second-half points. Once the Tigers figured out that Shearwood was Canadian’s only true scorer, they adjusted their defense accordingly.
“We’ve been really working on our post play with the Ty kid that moved in,” Lokey said, referring to forward Ty Weiher. “Tonight wasn’t the night for him because Tushka is going to be probably one of the biggest teams we even face. So it’s going to be hard for him, plus it’s only his third-ever high school game. So third game of the season, I feel pretty good at where we’re sitting. ... We were nip-and-tuck with them the whole game.”
The Cougars’ offense had more balance in the first half, even if Shearwood scored his team’s first 7 points. Down 11-7, Shearwood found Kolton Harris and Jarrett for back-to-back layups to tie the game.
Jarrett then grabbed an offensive rebound off a missed 3-pointer by Shearwood, drew a foul and sank one free throw to put Canadian up 12-11. After a miss by Tushka, Jarrett ran a perfect backdoor cut and Shearwood found him for a layup and a 14-11 lead.
Back-to-back 3-pointers by Shearwood pushed Canadian’s lead to 20-11, but Tushka closed the half on a 7-2 run to make it 24-18 at halftime. Weiher pulled an offensive rebound and sank it for Canadian as the half expired.
“Our energy was down to start the game,” Pannell said. “But with our energy up in the third quarter, the defense and the offense, everything looks better.”
With the win, Tushka improved to 8-1. Canadian fell to 2-1.
Contact Matt Goisman at email@example.com.