Left Hand Valley Courier - All Local, All The Time

By Jocelyn Rowley
Sports@lhvc.com 

Cougars kick off season with gritty win over Frederick

 

December 7, 2017

Ed Navarro

Cam Carlson takes a shot against Frederick in Niwot’s season debut on Nov. 29.

Junior Tommy Bounds and company sprinted out of the gate in their season-opener against Frederick last Wednesday night, building a quick lead over the Warriors and giving Cougar fans plenty of fodder for their post-season fantasies. A slew of turnovers and missed shots in the second quarter stalled the Cougars’ early momentum, and new head coach Eric Hejl’s team had to battle down the stretch. Buoyed senior Cameron Carlson’s fourth quarter heroics, Niwot finally put Frederick away 60-55, and claimed a season-opening victory for the fourth year in a row.

“It was definitely fun to be back out on the court with my boys,” said senior guard Tyler Crall after the hard-fought win. Crall had a team-high 13 points on the night, including five in the final quarter. “It’s a good way to start off the season, and a good way to get us motivated. We want to get the next win and just get better.”

Hejl was just happy to escape with a win over the scrappy Warriors, who outscored the Cougars in the second and fourth quarters. Overall, he was pleased with his team’s resilient performance.

“I was very proud of the way they maintained, didn’t let Frederick pull away at all,” he said after his first win as a head coach since February 2014. “As soon as they got close, we’d get a bucket to push that lead back up, and that was something that I was definitely happy with.”

The Cougars jumped out to a 15-4 lead at the end of the first quarter, with scoring from five different players, including three-pointers from Bounds, Crall, and senior Sai Aryan Nagula. In the second quarter, however, the Cougars scored just six points, and barely clung to a 21-20 lead at the half.

Frederick pulled ahead in the opening minute of the third quarter, but Bounds tied it up for the Cougars a few seconds later. The two teams battled back and forth until late in the third quarter, when senior forward Max Towlen put the Cougars ahead 39-32, only to have Frederick hit a three-pointer as the final second ticked off.

After Frederick briefly edged to within two points midway through the fourth, Carlson scored eight consecutive points to put the Cougars ahead for good. A pair of technical fouls on Warrior’s guard Tyler Lords led to another three Niwot points late, and they went on to win the game 60-55.

“We saw earlier in the game that if we could bring one of their big guys out and set a high-ball screen, we were able to turn the corner and make them guard us in different ways,” explained the coach of his strategy to get Carlson the ball in the final minutes. “When we realized that was something that was going to work, we just tried to exploit it.”

Carlson, who sat most of the third quarter in foul trouble, ended the night with 12 points, including the Cougars’ first basket of the year. Bounds and Towlen combined for 17, while Nagula and senior power forward Thomas Kucharski had six apiece.

“When Cameron got in foul trouble, I thought when Thomas went in we really didn’t have any drop off,” said Hejl. “They have different skill sets, but he went in and got rebounds and played through adversity, which sometimes he struggles with.”

Sophomore Milo Ostwald also had some minutes late in the game, when both Carlson and Kucharski found themselves on the brink of fouling out. He had three points.

“For the time he was out there, he did really well,” Hejl said of his 10th-grade forward, who had three points on the night. “When you put a young kid with no varsity experience in, you don’t always know how they’re going to react.”

Hejl acknowledged there is still some early season rust to work off. “I would have loved for some things to have gone more smoothly, but overall, the mistakes that we made are fixable,” he said. “We just keep on building from this.”

Apparently, that process is going to take more than 48 hours. Two nights later at Erie, a sluggish Niwot offense managed just 34 total points, squandering a decent defensive effort in the season’s second game. The Cougars held Erie to just 46 points, but that would be more than enough to overcome Niwot’s tepid shooting.

“We got out-hustled,” said a clearly disappointed Hejl following the team’s first loss of the season. “They played harder than we did more often than we did.”

Carlson had 11 points on the night, while Bounds had ten, including three of the five Niwot three-pointers. Kucharski had four, while Crall and junior Alex Erickson each had three apiece.

“I don’t know if we’re going to be a team that can play from behind, and this is why,” he continued. “Putting points on the board can be a little bit difficult for us at times.”

The Cougars close out their early season swing through the Tri-Valley Conference at Holy Family on Dec. 5. On Dec. 8, Niwot hosts Greeley Central for the home opener.

(11/29) — Niwot 60, Frederick 55

Niwot (1-0, 0-0) 15 6 20 19 — 60

Ed Navarro

Guard Tyler Crall had a team-leading 13 points against Frederick on Nov. 29.

Frederick (0-1, 0-0) 4 16 15 20 — 55

 Crall 3 6-10 13, Carlson 6 0-2 12, Erickson 0 2-4 2, Bounds 3 2-2 9, Towlen 2 6-10 10, Nagula 2 0-0 6, Hyatt 0 0-0 0, Ostwald 1 0-0 2, Kucharski 2 2-2 6. Totals 18 18-30 60

(12/1) — Erie 46, Niwot 34

Niwot (1-1, 0-0) 9 6 12 7 — 34

Erie (1-0, 0-0) 12 10 8 16 — 46

 

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