Next month, Greenwood Christian Academy boys basketball will make its Johnson County Tournament debut. If Friday night’s matchup with Greenwood is any indication, the Cougars will be more than capable of holding their own.

Greenwood Christian stayed within striking distance for most of the night and led late in the third quarter before a 14-0 blitz enabled the Woodmen to escape with a 63-54 victory.

“I give them a lot of credit,” Greenwood coach Joe Bradburn said. “We were fortunate that we made some shots and we had some athleticism that got us in a position to get rebounds and things like that, but execution-wise, we need to be much better.”

The game was tied early at 9-9 before Greenwood seized the lead for good with a seven-point burst that got started with an Eric Moenkhaus 3-pointer following two missed Cougar free throws. Greenwood Christian (3-4) whittled a 10-point deficit to four, 28-24, midway through the second quarter, but the Woodmen responded with another 7-0 run, capped by a Jeffrey Reynolds 3-pointer, and took a 37-29 edge into the half.

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Down 41-34 with 4:47 to go in the third period, Greenwood Christian scored 10 consecutive points to reclaim the lead for the first time since it was up 1-0. Cayden Bauschek and Kegan Owen hit back-to-back 3-pointers to put the Cougars up and Payton Modlin tacked on a layup to make it 44-41 with 1:30 left in the quarter.

Greenwood stemmed the tide, however, and regained control. The Woodmen closed the third with buckets from Reynolds and Moenkhaus to go back on top and then scored the first 10 points of the fourth to take command. Isaiah Drew closed the outburst with seven points in a row, stretching the Greenwood lead to 55-44 with 4:17 left.

“Coach just told us to keep coming, keep moving the ball and keep getting everybody involved,” Drew said. “We really had to pick up the pace, and we just came together and started playing basketball how we should.”

The Cougars fought back one more time, using a 7-0 flurry to get within five, and Greenwood made the closing minutes interesting by missing seven fourth-quarter foul shots, but Greenwood Christian wasn’t able to take advantage.

“It was a shame that we didn’t make more shots,” Cougars coach Jonny Marlin said, “but you have those games, and at the end of the day I was proud that our team fought like that. I thought we made some adjustments at halftime, and our team did a good job with that.”

Reynolds finished with 20 points to lead Greenwood, while Moenkhaus and Drew each contributed 13. Owen paced the Cougars with 20 points and three steals, and Champ McCorkle chipped in with 10 points.

Greenwood Christian returns to action next weekend at Monrovia’s holiday tournament, while Greenwood hosts Center Grove on Friday.

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Ryan O'Leary is sports editor for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at roleary@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2715.