New London came up one play short Tuesday night, dropping a 47-46 decision to Huron in the Division III boys sectional tournament opener at Monroeville.
“Little things hurt us tonight,” New London coach Tom Howell said. “They took advantage of some of our mistakes and they pulled it out in the end. One rebound, one basket and it would have been a different story.”
It was also the final game for Howell, who is retiring. He coached the Wildcats for 14 seasons, compiling a 174-115 record with two Firelands Conference championships and a district title in 2011-12.
“I’m hanging up my whistle,” he said. “Everything isn’t always roses and ice cream and cake. You just have to deal with it and move on.”
Huron coach Bobby James gave New London, which finished 11-12, a lot of credit after.
“New London played a great game,” James said. “Tom Howell’s kids play hard and he’s a great coach. It will be sad to see him go. It was always fun to compete against him. I knew they would be well-prepared and ready to roll tonight.”
The Wildcats hit 7 of 11 three’s over the first three quarters, building a 34-25 lead in the process. New London only hit one more trey the rest of the way and were limited to just two points over the final 4:27 of the game as Huron fought back.
“I don’t know that they did anything differently, but they were in our face,” Howell said. “I think we got the ball inside, we just couldn’t finish. Our goal in the second half was to go inside-out and we got some good looks down there, but the bottom line is we didn’t make the shots.”
The Tigers (11-10) closed the third quarter with a 7-2 spurt to close to within 38-37, then took a 45-44 lead, its first of the game, with 3:28 remaining on a putback bucket from Jimmy Harkelroad.
Scoring ground to a halt from there, with Karson Howell converting over Harkelroad in the lane with a minute to play to give the Wildcats a lead that held until Drew Wennes muscled in a bucket off an inbounds pass with four seconds to play.
With plenty of fouls to give, Huron committed three quick ones to eat up about three of the remaining seconds, with Karson Howell getting just enough of a look to throw up a three at the buzzer that bounced off the rim.
“After three and a half quarters, we finally did a nice job of closing out of their shooters,” James said. “I think it finally set in that we had to use our length and get our hands up. And we started doing a better job of guarding them so they couldn’t dribble-drive, penetrate and kick. I thought that was the key.”
Another key, according to Tom Howell, was Huron’s commanding 25-13 edge on the boards.
“We were outrebounded badly,” he said. “We preached the last couple of days about rebounding and I think that hurt us. They are big physical kids and did what they had to do.”
Wennes led the Tigers with 16 points and 11 rebounds, while Casey Scroggins, Joey Brown and Harkelroad each scored eight. Harkelroad and Nic Ritzler added four boards apiece in the game.
“We tried to emphasize that we had an advantage down low and I think we used that in it in the third and fourth quarters a little better than we did in the first half,” James said “Drew had a heck of a game, but we needed all the points we got. I think the kids settled in in the second half and played a lot better.”
Ben Crawshaw scored 16 to lead the Wildcats and Ashton Carruthers finished with 11. Karson Howell, who is the all-time leading scorer in New London boys basketball history, finished with nine points to end his career with 1,143 points.
“I thought Huron did a good job on Karson, but he did a pretty good job of driving and finding one of our shooters,” Tom Howell said. “He just didn’t get some of the shots I was hoping he would get.
“We just needed to make one more shot,” he added.
Huron returns to play third-seeded Western Reserve (16-4) in the sectional final at 6:15 p.m. Friday.
Matthew Hurst 1-0—3; Casey Scroggins 3-0—8; Drew Wennes 8-0—16; Joey Brown 3-0—8; Nic Ritzler 1-0—2; Jimmy Harkelroad 4-0—8; Cole Scroggins 1-0—2. TOTALS 21-0—47.
NEW LONDON (11-12)
Ben Crawshaw 5-1—16; Ashton Carruthers 4-2—11; Jaylin Moffit 2 0—5; Karson Howell 3-0—9; Jacob Allen 1-1—3; Jaden Keys 0-2—2. TOTALS 16-6—46.
Huron 12 11 14 10 — 47
N. London 16 12 10 8 — 46
3-point FGs: (H) Matthew Hurst, Ca. Scroggins 2, Brown 2; (NL) Crawshaw 5, Carruthers, Moffitt, Howell