Cougars claw Mustangs


While scouting reports can help preview a team, there are always players who can defy the predictions.

The New Washington boys basketball team netted five 3-pointers in the first quarter against Trinity Lutheran, which stunned the visitors.

However, a career-high 25 points from senior Jacob Christopher propelled the Cougars to a 72-61 road win Saturday.

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In the first quarter, it was a 3-point shootout.

The Mustangs’ James Clemons was a force from the start, netting four 3-pointers in the opening eight minutes.

Luke Stuckwisch hit a 3-pointer on the Cougars’ first possession and added another trey following a Clemons 3 to give Trinity a 13-8 edge at the 3:17 mark.

Clemons hit back-to-back 3-pointers with one minute left on the clock to narrow the Mustangs’ deficit to 18-14.

Following baskets by the Cougars’ Stuckwisch and Daniel Horton, the Mustangs’ Brandon Horton drilled a 3-pointer with five second on the clock to keep his team within reach at 17-22.

“We had eight 3-pointers combined in the first quarter, that was not really how I had seen the game playing out,” Cougars coach Aaron Rudzinski said. “We knew they had a good 3-point shooter in (Logan) Miles, but other than that we didn’t think they could really should from outside. Clemons really showed he’s a shooter.”

Christopher opened the second quarter with a 3-pointer to put the Cougars up 25-17. The senior added another trey with 3:25 left in the half as the Cougars went on to lead 36-31.

Following halftime, the Cougars buckled-in on their outside defense.

Despite all the Cougars efforts, the Mustangs kept the game within reach attacking the paint with 6-foot-6 Stevie Mack.

Zach Moore hit a 3-pointer, and Andrew House followed up with a 3-pointer to narrow the gap to two points headed into the final eight minutes of play.

The Cougars and Mustangs exchanged baskets throughout the first five minutes of the fourth quarter.

Horton distanced the Cougars at 64-59 with a basket with three minutes left in the game.

With 47 seconds on the clock, the Mustangs, down 66-61, were forced to foul Christopher.

Christopher hit both shots, and with 34 seconds left Toby VanLiew was able to jump on a loose ball and call a timeout to get a Mustangs turnover.

“We needed that possession bad,” Rudzinski said. “We preach all the time to get on the floor for loose balls, and we finally got someone to do it at a meaningful time. (VanLiew) secured the ball in enough time to get the time out, which was big momentum for us.”

The Cougars hit all 10 of their free throws in the final seconds of the game to bounce back from a Friday night loss to No. 6 Christian Academy.

Both teams hit eight 3-pointers in the contest, with five coming from the Cougars’ Christopher and five from Clemons, of the Mustangs.

Clemons didn’t score a basket after halftime but still led the Mustangs with 18 points.

“We were fortunately able to slow (Clemons) down in the second half,” Rudzinski said. “We switched up between man into zone. It didn’t seem like we could stop anything in the first quarter, they were lights-out shooting.”

Christopher led the Cougars in scoring both games this past weekend.

“I think last night kind of started him, he’s showing more confidence with his game right now,” Rudzinski said. “He steps up and looks a lot more confident when he shoots the ball. I told him last night (against Christian Academy) that’s an area of our team we need to rely on to do. We need that consistent 3-point shooter.”

On Feb. 17, the Cougars (15-5) will travel to Southwestern (Hanover).

Jordan Morey is sports editor at The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at or 812-523-7069.