By TED RADICK
DOLA — Every basketball coach, from the pros to the youth level, often emphasizes a couple of key points in a game.
The first few minutes after halftime and the final few minutes are key in close games, and Ada took over Thursday’s nonconference game at Hardin Northern at both those times in posting a 60-48 victory.
Ada improved to 5-16, while Hardin Northern concluded its regular season at 7-15.
Ada led 25-23 at halftime and came out of the break with a quick defense and some sharp shooting. The Bulldogs allowed Hardin Northern’s Lance Good to tie the game with a layup, then went on a 10-0 run.
Ada forced turnovers on four consecutive Polar Bear possessions in that span, and Phillip Coulson, who finished with a game-high 22 points, converted three layups to key the run.
“I felt like it was like it was a game of runs and spurts. We got out in front 10 points a couple of times, and they battled back,” Ada coach Dre White said. “Their kids battled back. They’re young, but they battle.”
Hardin Northern took a 41-40 lead in the opening seconds of the fourth quarter on another Good layup, but fighting back from that third-quarter deficit may have gassed the young Polar Bears.
Ada forced seven Hardin Northern turnovers in the fourth quarter and closed the final three minutes on a 10-1 run.
“I was proud of my guys,” White said. “We’ve been in this situation a lot this year, where it’s a close game, and we couldn’t finish. I think we’ve lost five games by 10 or less points.
“So, to see my guys in the last three minutes kind of lock down defensively was great. We forced a lot of turnovers and converted on the other end. I told them, if we take care of the basketball and rebound we’ll win the game, and I was proud of them for doing that.”
Ada benefitted from the play of sophomore points guard Brandon Hull, who scored all of his eight points in fourth quarter. Hull hit the bench for most of the first half after picking up his second foul in the opening three minutes.
“That’s rough,” White said. “We survived the half, frankly, being up two points. He’s our guy. We depend on his dribble drive a lot. He creates a lot for others.
“But, he’s young, and he’s going to learn not to get that second foul so early so that I can play him a lot more. He came back in the second half and played really well.”
Coulson and center Connor Frazier were a handful for Hardin Northern. Frazier grabbed 15 rebounds and scored 18 points.
“We have struggled with post players, overall, all year long,” Hardin Northern coach Jared Thomas said. “If it’s guard versus guard, we tend to compete.
“I thought we did a good job on Coulson and Frazier in the first half, but they were still scoring. At the half, they had 28 between the two of them. The last game we lost, the post players had 29 between the two of them. We just have to get better at that.”
Down but not out, Hardin Northern recovered from Ada’s third-quarter run. Owen Wetherill, who finished with a team-best 14 points, sandwiched a midrange jumper between a pair of 3-pointers in the third quarter to close the gap.
Hardin Northern, though, made just one its last 10 field-goal attempts in the fourth.
“We ask a lot of our younger players,” said Thomas, who started a freshman and two sophomores on Hardin Northern’s senior night. “They don’t come off the floor much, if at all. Sometimes they’re going to get tired, and sometimes they’re going to spit the ball a little bit.
“But, our turnover margin compared to any other team we’ve had in my six years here is way low. Every category, we’ve improved. It’s just that the next category we need to attack is how to improve inside against post players.”
Hunter Jolliff scored 12 points for Hardin Northern, and Nevin Robson scored nine points with a team-high nine rebounds.
Zac Swaney scored eight points for Ada, which had two sophomores in the starting lineup as well. The Bulldogs host Bluffton tonight in their Northwest Conference and regular season finale.
“We’ve won two in a row. We’ve been stuck on win No. 4 the past two years, and we just got No. 5 tonight,” White said. “We haven’t won back-to-back games in three years, and we won back-to-back tonight. We finally won a road game this year, so we have a lot of momentum going into tomorrow. The guys should be excited, it’s senior night.”
Swaney 4-0–8, Hull 4-0–8, Coulson 10-0–22, Hall 2-0–4, Frazier 8-2–18. TOTALS: 28-60 2-3 — 60.
Hardin Northern (7-15)
Jolliff 6-0–12, Cramer 0-1–1, Wetherill 6-0–14, Robson 1-7–9, Martin 1-1–3, Good 4-1–9. TOTALS: 18-44 10-16 — 48.
Ada 15 10 15 20 — 60
Hardin Northern 14 9 16 9 — 48
3-Point GOALS: Ada 2-12 (Coulson 2); Hardin Northern 2-12 (Wetherill 2).
rebounds: Ada 28 (Frazier 15); Hardin Northern 31 (Robson 9).
turnovers: Ada 10; Hardin Northern 18.
junior varsity: Ada, 50-33.