Sometimes it takes a little longer to make the change from an extended football season to a new basketball season. So it was on Saturday evening for the Chewelah Cougars. There seemed to be too many linebackers and lead blockers on the court, and the resulting personal fouls cost them a 61-51 loss to the visiting St. George’s Dragons.
Chewelah was whistled for 27 fouls, sending the Dragons to the free throw line to shoot 25 free throws and sending two Cougars to the bench. With the officials blowing every bump and touch, the more physical Cougars were in trouble from the tipoff.
A three-minute scoring drought midway through the second period also contributed to Chewelah’s opening game loss. The Cougars held a 16-14 lead on Brandon Smith’s rebound basket with 6:38 remaining in the period. They did not score again until he made the first of two free throws with 3:48 left to play in the half. During this time, St. George’s went on a 12-point run.
That three-minute Chewelah scoring famine allowed St. Georges to take a 28-18 lead, and the Cougars were never able to make up the deficit. They were behind by as many as 16 points just before halftime. And, they cut the Dragon lead to as few as five points in the third period. However, the Cougars were never able to make up the points lost during that three-minute slump.
This was also Chewelah’s first opportunity to see how they could handle a team with a height advantage. The Dragons had a couple of inside players at 6’4″ and 6’6″, and neither of them was a dominating force in the game.
The one thing St. George’s did do was find the open shooter. That was especially evident in the second period when they hit four three-pointers.
Chewelah trailed through most of the game. Brandon Smith’s give-and-go layup at the beginning of the game gave the Cougars a 2-0 lead. Caleb Wiebe hit a jump shot from the side to give them a 10-9 edge. Then, Brandon Smith’s put-back in the second period broke a 16-all tie and put Chewelah on top, 18-16. St. George’s led through the remainder of the game.
The Smith cousins combined to score 30 points for the Cougars. They scored 15 points apiece to lead Chewelah shooters.
Brandon Smith took the ball down the lane to the hoop twice in the first period. Derek Smith also had a driving jumper, and Caleb Wiebe scored twice on short-range shots. Still, Chewelah trailed 14-10 at the end of the period.
The Cougars scored the first eight points of the second period to take an 18-16 lead. Derek Smith and Lars Berger canned inside shots, and Brandon Smith put back a rebound.
Chewelah’s little lead quickly disappeared as the Cougars went scoreless over the next three minutes. They put up shots, but none of them fell through the net. By the time Brandon Smith broke the spell with his free throw, St. George’s had a 10-point lead, 28-18.
Ben Johnstone hit a three-pointer and a pair of free throws, and Brandon Smith made two more attempts from the line, but Chewelah still trailed 37-26 at halftime.
In the second half, the Cougars cut the Dragon lead to five-point spread twice. Derek smith, Ben Johnstone, and Brandon Smith each hit a shot at the beginning of the third period to cut the St. George’s lead to 37-32. Likewise, at the start of the fourth period, Berger hit a three-pointer and Derek Smith drained a driving jumper to again trim the Dragon lead to 50-45.
Still, in both cases, St. George’s used a barrage of free throws to widen their lead. The end result was a 61-51 Dragon triumph.
The Cougar boys will host the Northwest Christian Crusaders this Saturday evening at 4:30.
St. George’s 61, Chewelah 51
Cougars: 10 – 16 – 14 – 11 = 51
Dragons: 14 – 23 – 07 – 17 = 61
Cougar scoring: Derek Smith 15, Brandon Smith 15, Ben Johnstone 9, Deylin Peone 6, Caleb Wiebe 4, Lars Berger 2
By Geno Ludwig, The Independent Staff
In This Photo: Brandon Smith #13 hits another winner this time a 3 pointer! Kim Johnstone photo