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Cougar Craziness has crazy contest ending

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By Chris Cannon

ccannon@lafollettepress.com

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Gunner St. John and Nikki Ward wanted to make sure Cougar Craziness was definitely crazy.

Following the alumni game on Friday, both the men and women’s squads participated in the three point contests where Ward edged Jamie Mynatt 11-10 in the one-minute shootout. St. John beat Seth Pebley, 14-10.

However, in the St. John versus Ward contest, everything changed.

In the one-minute round, Ward sank three straight in order to take a 10-7 lead. St. John fought his way back with just seconds remaining in order to tie the match at 10-all as the buzzer sounded.

“It was fun,” Lady Cougar head coach Ryan Browning said. “It was fun to see, and I think the crowd got into it. We didn’t have to look. You knew if somebody made it or missed it.”

Both then had to compete in a 30 second challenge, which again saw St. John storm back from a 4-2 deficit to tie the contest at four.

Sudden death was forced, as each player took one shot at the same time.

“I feel bad for saying this, but I was actually pulling for Nikki once it got down to the second sudden death,” Cougar head coach Matt Housley said. “I’ve talked to some people in the community, and that was the highlight of their night. Seeing those to go at it and make two or three back-to-back, it was pretty cool.”

Five sudden death rounds later, a winner was finally crowned as Ward sank the fifth shot. St. John’s shot kicked off the back of the rim.

“It was exciting and overwhelming at first,” Ward said with a smile. “It just got to where I was comfortable shooting. It was scary at first, but then I realized that I could beat him.”

“What killed me was that Nikki was on the move a lot,” Browning said. “If she shoots a shot like that in a game, fading away, you’re going to fuss at her. She can shoot. She was squared up on her shots.”

However, it could have all went differently.

The student sections were calling for half court shots before the sudden death periods. If that had happened, Housley and St. John thought it could have been a different ball game.

“Gunner, he’s good at the silly shots,” the Cougar head coach said. “Shots you shouldn’t make, he usually makes. He was probably pulling for that.”

For St. John, however, he just didn’t want to face off at the arc against Ward.

“I haven’t practiced (half court shots) a lot,” St. John said. “I just wanted to try something a little different than threes, because I know she’s good at those. I would have gone for a half court shot.”

In the hotshot contests, Kristy Owens and Sam Arnold took the victory 18-7.

Although the night focused on contests, the Blue and White games also proved to be a success.

For the women, the Blue team took an early lead, 9-0, behind two treys from Olivia Brown and another from Emily Byrge.

A layup by sophomore Amber Guy gave the White team its first lead of the game a 13-11 ball game. However, Byrge’s clutch three-point shot with eight seconds remaining sealed the deal for the Blue crew, 14-13.

According to Browning, the defense really needs to step up before the season begins.

“I thought we competed well,” Browning said. “Right now, we’re letting the opponent do whatever they want to. We’re not taking the initiative to get up. We’re going to have to get back at it this week. It has all to do with a mindset. It has nothing to do with the ability but rather the mindset to get up there.”

Byrge, Brown and Guy lead all scorers with six points each.

The Cougars game became more about building chemistry on the team.

“It was really sloppy,” Housley said. “It was kind of like an all-star game. Everybody was wanting to display their offensive abilities.”

Corey Poteet lead all scorers with eight points, while Brandon Lee and Darin Gillenwater each chipped in five. The white team took the contest 24-15.

Seeing Jordan Kindred and Clay Gaylor work together on the floor was what encouraged Housley the most.

“They’re starting to develop a little bit of chemistry as they’re going to be in together a lot throughout the season,” he said. “That was good for those two to work together.”