BY SCOTT R. FISHER
The character of this year's North Greene basketball team was tested on Tuesday night at the Huskie Den.
The game with Providence Academy was the first contest for the Huskies since their big win over cross-county rival Chuckey-Doak last Saturday.
It was the perfect situation for a letdown. But North Greene (9-2) managed to keep that from happening as it shook off a slow start and survived for a 60-59 win in a decision that could have easily gone the other way.
"It was a lot closer than I would have liked," said Huskies head coach Brandon Broyles. "Emotionally, our kids were a little drained from Saturday night."
The visiting Knights grabbed an early lead by scoring 10 straight points during the middle part of the first quarter. The largest lead of the game was 15-6 for Providence.
Once the Huskies trimmed the lead down to 15-12 after the first eight minutes of play, neither team was able to pull away. Five points was the largest lead for North Greene.
The game was so close that had the final shot of the game fallen for Providence's Caleb Spruce, the visitors would have gone home winners.
"Both teams played hard," Broyles said. "It was hard-fought the entire way."
The game should not have been as close as it was at the end. North Greene missed six free throws in the final quarter. The team finished 9-17 at the charity stripe.
"It is frustrating," Broyles said about the six misses in the fourth quarter.
While Coach Broyles acknowledged that his squad did not play its best game of the season, he gave credit to the Providence Academy team for bringing the fight to the Huskies on Tuesday.
"We were lucky to get the win," Broyles said. "It is not a typical Providence team."
The Knights rode the hot hand of two of its players to keep the game close. Early on it was Spruce who was knocking down shots from all over the court. In the fourth quarter, Jacolby Darr sank three three-pointers to pace his team. Darr and Spruce combined to score 32 points.
The Huskies countered the hot shooting of the Knights by pounding the ball inside to senior Garrett Harbin. He netted 14 of his game-high 22 points in the second half. Harbin scored four points in the first and second quarters before adding six in the third and eight more in the final period.
The only other Huskie to reach double-digit scoring was junior Hayden Mullins with 13 points. In the game, eight different North Greene players contributed at least two points.
After the Knights built a 15-6 lead early, North Greene responded by four points by Mullins and a buzzer-beating basket from junior Tyler Bailey.
The second quarter was a see-saw battle. In the final four minutes of the period, the two teams traded baskets and neither team could get a good grasp on the lead. It traded hands five times in the waning moments of the first half.
The lead for Providence Academy was 30-29 at the intermission.
The game remained nip-and-tuck throughout the third quarter. North Greene took control of the contest by scoring the final seven points of the third. The Huskies turned a 38-35 deficit into a 42-38 lead heading into the fourth. Mullins and Harbin each collected baskets in the run, but it was junior Tanner Collins' triple that finished it off.
Through the first three quarters of play, the two teams combined to attempt 11 free throws. In the fourth quarter, North Greene went to the line 14 times.
Every time the Huskies tried to pull away, Providence Academy's Jacolby Darr drained another three-pointer to give his team some life.
On six different occasions, North Greene went to the free throw line and made only one of two shots. And each time, the lead was no more than three points.
Coach Broyles thought the Knights shot the ball very well throughout the game and his team struggled shooting. In fact, though, it was the Huskies that had the better shooting percentage . North Greene converted on 25-of-60 shot attempts while the Knights went 23-of-61 from the field,
"We did not shoot the ball well," he said. "We missed a lot of layups."