Boys: Cougars post a pair of Northern League wins
January 26, 2017
Don’t look now, but the Niwot boys basketball team is on a bit of a roll.
The Cougars notched two conference victories last week, including a 64-57 upset over the Thompson Valley Eagles, a team that has been on brink of a top-10 4A ranking all season. Two days later, Niwot breezed past the Centaurus Warriors 63-54.
With the wins, the Cougars improved to 7-7 overall, and 3-2 in the Northern League. In their eight games since returning from the school break, they are 5-3 and averaging nearly 59 points-per-game, up 12 from 47ppg in December.
For head coach Preston Hardy, the wins are a sign that the team’s hard work is finally paying off, and he is positive despite an upcoming schedule filled with the Northern League’s toughest teams.
“The boys are starting to believe that we can play with anyone,” he said. “But we’re going to take it one game at a time.”
On Jan. 17, Niwot hosted the Thompson Valley Eagles for each team’s fourth conference game. The Eagles, who were 8-4 coming into the night, have had success this season implementing a full court press, a scheme that gave the Cougars fits the week before against Mountain View. But if the Eagles were hoping for an easy night in Niwot, they came a week too late.
After a practice week that emphasized “valuing the basketball,” Hardy’s team committed just 17 turnovers against the Eagles, down from their season-high 26 the prior Thursday. They also tuned up their defense, an effort which yielded a season-high 31 rebounds.
The Cougar offense was paced by senior Adam Barber, who had 23 points, followed by sophomore Thomas Bounds with 11. Center Cameron Carlson, back from an ankle injury, chipped in six points and collected seven rebounds, as his defensive presence continued to grow. Seniors Jake Sims (8) and J.J. Kolakowski (7) combined for 15 points, and seven rebounds.
Overall, the team put in one of its more notable offensive performances of the season, shooting 45 percent from the floor, including 14-for-25 from 2-point range, both among the season’s best. The Cougars also had a season-high 18 assists, including six by team-leader Kolakowski.
Niwot kept pace with the Eagles through the half, going into the break up 28-26. Thompson Valley edged ahead in the third period, but a scoring burst from the Cougars put the game away in the fourth, and gave the Eagles their second conference loss.
“It was a big win for us,” said Hardy. “The key was executing the game plan with consistent effort.”
Clearly, the Cougars took that effort with them into their next match, as they cruised to a 63-54 win over Centaurus on Jan. 19. The Warriors kept the game close in the first quarter, but were outpaced by Niwot in the second and third periods. The Cougars took a 12-point lead into the last frame, and Centaurs couldn’t close the gap.
Sims was the Cougars’ top scorer, with 20 points, his season high. He also accounted for five of Niwot’s nine 3-pointers, and his seven rebounds on the night were also a season-high. Barber added another 17 points, and junior forward Alec Helgeland had eight.
Again, the defense turned in a solid performance, with 30 rebounds and 11 steals. The Cougars also kept the ball to themselves more, turning it over just 18 times.
Hardy is clearly pleased with his squad’s more disciplined approach. “We did a better job of taking care of the basketball,” he said. “We also rebounded well on the defensive end.”
Niwot faces its toughest challenge of 2017 next week, when the squad goes against the 11-3 Northridge Grizzlies in Greeley on Jan. 24. Hardy admits it will be tough, but thinks his team is up to the challenge.
“We believe we have found some vulnerabilities,” he said. “If we put a consistent effort on the floor each play, we will be able to be in the game at the end.”
Niwot is back at home against Greeley Central on Jan. 27. The Cougars beat the Wildcats 63-48 on Jan. 3.
(1/17) — Niwot 64, Thompson Valley 57
Thompson Valley (8-5, 2-2) 12 14 21 10 — 57
Niwot (6-7, 1-1) 15 13 18 18 — 64
Adam Barber 9 3-4 23, Thomas Bounds 4 0-1 11, Jake Sims 3 0-0 8, J.J. Kolakowski 1 4-4 7, Cameron -Carlson 3 0-1 6, Max Towlen 2 0-0 5, Ethan Radatz 1 1-1 3, Alec Helgeland 0 1-4 1 Totals 23 9-15 64
(1/19) — Niwot 63, Centaurus 54
Niwot (7-7, 3-2) 15 17 16 15 — 63
Centaurus (3-9, 0-6) 15 10 11 18 — 54
Jake Sims 7 1-2 20, Adam Barber 5 5-8 17, Alec Helgeland 2 4-7 8, Thomas Bounds 2 2-2 7, Cameron Carlson 2 1-1 5, J.J. Kolakowski 1 0-2 3, Max Towlen 1 0-0 2 , Ethan Radatz 0 1-4 1 Totals 20 14-26 63