Clyde Zachery has a mighty young group he puts out on the floor a few times a week.
And the veteran Crawford County head coach knows about exhibiting patience when the Eagles play their age.
But sometimes they play a little older.
After a rugged game from the floor and the free-throw line, the Eagles got some clutch offensive trips to nip Northeast 52-49 Friday night in a GHSA Region 4-AA battle.
Crawford improved to 16-4 and 10-1 while Northeast fell to 14-7 and 7-4.
"Just gut it out," Zachery said. "We just had to gut it out."
The teams spent the entire game in a serious let-them-play affair with stretches on the floor battling for loose balls, and there were plenty. There were also plenty of makeable shots neither team put in amid all the pressing and trapping.
"Transition ate us alive," Northeast head coach Kevin Grooms said. "We've got to do a better job at scoring baskets in transition."
John Corbin led Crawford County with 18 points while William Jarrell added 12. Wycholvia Early had 15 for Northeast, while Santez Kinder added 13 and JaRodney Sanders 12.
Jarrell broke a 43-all tie with two free throws with 5:52 left in the fourth, and Javon Clark scored low for a four-point lead. The Raiders got to within two before Damien Saffolds 3-pointer put the Eagles up 50-47 with 1:39 left. Sanders answered on a putback with 1:15 remaining, and both teams went back and fourth and spent plenty of time on the court chasing loose balls while also missing free throws.
Crawford County went 4-for-9 at the line in the final quarter to 2-for-4 for Northeast.
Khailyl West hit two for Northeast with 9.5 seconds left to bring the Raiders to within 50-49, and Crawford County's Monkeize Moore sealed it a few seconds later. Northeast turned it over on an inbounds.
Crawford County's spot atop the region is impressive, considering Zachery is rolling out two freshmen, two sophomores and a senior in the starting lineup.
"I don't think we played our best," said Zachery, whose team had a sub.-40 percent night at the line. "Normally we shoot the jump shot pretty god, but I think our kids were a little bit afraid and they knew that were in a tough battle. We had a lot of turnover. Normally we don't have that many."
The teams never found much precision on offense, between rushing shots, overdoing shots or just missing because of all the pushing, reaching and swatting that went on all night on both sides.
Crawford County blocked six first-half shots, and trailed 23-16 before closing the half on a 6-2 run, all the points coming on hustle plays from Jarrell, a 6-4 sophomore.
The Eagles opened the third quarter with a 9-2 surge, but breathing room was nonexistent.
Zachery tested the officials' patience by demonstratively inquiring about a lack of pushing calls, stepping far out to the court before returning to the bench as one official put the whistle to his mouth.
But the Eagles never let the Raiders regain the lead, although the game was tied six times in the second half.
Grooms saw what happens when weather interrupts a routine with a big region game on the schedule.
"Three days not being able to practice hurt us," Groom said. "That storm sure messed us up. We had no rhythm, we had no energy. We had nothing out there."