Putnam County surges early, hangs on to top Marquette

Panthers’ fast start, closing defense upend Cru for 3rd place at Tri-County Tourney

GRANVILLE – The banner above the balcony on the north side of R.M. Germano Gymnasium welcomes teams, referees and fans to the permanent home of the Tri-County Conference Tournament, but below that, there’s a phrase that says a little more about the Panthers’ attitude about their role as host and left Marquette feeling the sting of every word.

“This is OUR house.”

The Panthers fell behind Marquette, 7-4, in the first two minutes of the 95th annual tournament’s third-place game, but then scored 16 of the next 18 points to take control of what would become a 65-49 victory in their home gym on Friday night.

Jackson McDonald led all scorers with 23 points, 10 of those coming in the fourth quarter after the Crusaders had erased all but seven of a 22-point deficit by the end of the first minute of the final period.

Marquette’s Tommy Durdan scored 10 of his team-high 13 in that final period to help slice that deficit to 46-39 at the 6:59 mark of that quarter. However, the Panthers sank 7 of 9 chances from the free-throw line to help preserve the trophy-winning decision.

“To end a tournament with a win is always a good thing. I’m glad for the kids after a tough game against Seneca,” said Putnam County coach Harold Fay, referencing their semifinal loss Wednesday. “I was a little surprised they started in a zone, but against it we moved the ball, we were patient and we took shots within our offense. Plus our guards rebounded well on the back side, after two or three missed shots to enable us to get another chance at it. That was big at the beginning.

“When we got up and when Marquette started to close it, the kids came over to the bench hanging their heads a little bit, so I reminded them that they weren’t going to go away and we had to keep battling … We took their best punch and were able to increase the lead again. That was good to see.”

Buckets by MA’s Durdan and Brady Ewers around a 3-pointer by Logan Nelson gave the No. 4-seeded Cru that early three-point margin. However, offensive rebounds converted into points in the lane by Wyatt Grimshaw and McDonald erased that deficit and started the decisive rally.

Four points by Andrew Pyszka, the last of Grimshaw’s six points in the period and a steal and layup by Drake Smith capped the stanza with PC up 17-7.

In the second quarter, Austin Mattingly took over the bulk of the scoring, popping in six points before he ended the Panther surge with two scores in the lane, opening up a 36-14 lead.

The Crusaders wouldn’t go away.

After sealing off their defensive boards better and becoming a constant nagging presence on the perimeter, MA forced five PC turnovers in the third. Five points each by twin towers Beau and Brady Ewers cut the PC lead to 46-32 heading to the fourth before Marquette got a Carson Zellers trey, a Durdan bucket and a Beau Ewers inside deuce for the first seven points of the fourth, making in 46-39 in the blink of an eye.

That’s when McDonald and Pyszka came through for the hosts. A basket from each, a free throw from Chad Olson and two more tosses from Pyszka restored the lead to 13. Back-to-back Durdan deuces kept it near 10, but the Panthers squashed the threat with 11 straight points, six of those by McDonald, to ice the win.

Mattingly tossed in 13 points and a team-best seven caroms on the night, while Pyszka added 11 points.

Beau Ewers netted 10 points and Brady Ewers chipped in seven points and six boards for the Cru (15-8), while Zellers added seven points and Nelson six.

“They beat us. We did a better job in the second half, but you just can’t spot a good team like Putnam County an 18-point lead like that and play from behind all night,” Marquette coach Todd Hopkins said. “Give them credit. They played hard … We didn’t help ourselves at the free throw line either (13 of 24), but we’ll just have to regroup and come back here next Friday and try it again.”