Clovers repeat as Putnam County champions, 65-48
The Cloverdale Clovers boys varsity basketball team secured their second straight Putnam County Classic title by defeating the Greencastle Tiger Cubs, 65-48, in the championship game Saturday night at the McNally Center in Greencastle.
The title game was much closer than the final score indicated. The Tiger Cubs took an early 15-1 lead in the first quarter and still led 27-15 at the intermission. The fans in the stands were talking upset, but the Clovers had other ideas as they came out of the locker room supercharged and outscored Greencastle 30-12 in the third quarter.
Junior Jalen Moore had 21 of those 30 third quarter points after only scoring nine points in the first half. He finished with a game-high 37 and reflected back on the talk in the locker room at the intermission.
“Coach Rady just told us to keep believing in ourselves and play with more energy,” Moore said after the game. “I got a little more aggressive taking the ball to the basket, and we really turned up the defense.”
The Clovers completed the quarter hitting 12 of 13 shots and three of four from long range, with many of the shots being Moore layups as he blew past the front line of defenders and weaved his way through the big men underneath.
“I give credit to my big brothers,” Moore added. “When I was in grade school, they would have their friends come over, and they would push me and hit on me, but it made me tougher.”
Cloverdale led 45-39 heading into the fourth quarter and outscored Greencastle 20-8 to make the final score 65-48.
The Tiger Cubs built that first half lead by reversing their game plan from the first meeting of these two teams when the Clovers won 46-34 on January 24. This time Greencastle opted to speed the game up instead of slow it down, and it appeared effective, especially in the first half.
“They really came out and gave us a run for our money tonight,” commented second year Cloverdale head coach Patrick Rady. “You have to give them credit for hitting shots. We got down a little bit, and then we stood on both offense and defense. Our defense definitely feeds off our offense.”
Butler-bound senior Cooper Neese ended the game with 26 points after only scoring six points in the first half. He also had an explosive two hand dunk near the middle of the fourth quarter that brought the crowd to their feet.
“It’s really special for Seth (Pfaff) and myself,” he said. “This is our last time to play in this gym, in this tourney. I think we are playing some really good basketball right now and we showed that tonight in the second half.”
Greencastle was led in scoring by Colin York who put up 25 points and drained five three-pointers. Teammate Nick Castin added eight points. Nick Winders was the only other Clover to score besides Moore and Neese, finishing with two points.
Cloverdale jumped out to an early lead and really never was challenged. They led 16-9 at the end of the first quarter and stretched the lead to 37-19 at halftime.
They had doubled the score on the Eagles by the end of the third quarter at 54-27 and coasted to the 21 point victory.
Neese led all scorers with 28 points while Moore added 17. Seth Pfaff scored six, Jake Wilkes had five, and Parker Watts netted four. Nick Winders and Jake Kelly had three points apiece to round out the Clover scoring.
Allen Plunkett led South Putnam with 25 points, and Thomas Fanning hit double figures with 10.
In the first game on Thursday night, Greencastle defeated North Putnam 56-51 to advance to the championship. North Putnam defeated South Putnam 66-51 in the third place consolation game on Friday night.
The Clovers move to 17-6 on the season with the pair of victories and have only one regular season game remaining before tournament play.
The Shakamak Lakers (13-7) will visit Tucker Court on Friday night, and seniors Cooper Neese and Seth Pfaff will be honored along with senior cheerleaders and pep band members.
Neese admits feeling the effects of the impending end of one of the best careers any Indiana high school player has ever had as he has moved into the top 10 scorers in state history.
Junior Varsity action will tip off at 6 p.m. with the varsity game to follow around 7:30 p.m. Senior night festivities will take place between games.