According to the Chinese calender, 2004 is the Year of the Monkey.
Without knowing this, and by looking at the first couple of games ICC has played since the new year rolled over, one might think this was the Year of the Cougar.
After leaving Thayer with a thrilling overtime victory four days earlier, the Cougars were involved in another nail biter Jan. 6, hosting 2AA-North Conference foe Salem.
Clutching a 56-55 lead with seven ticks left on the game clock, the Greyhounds missed a pair of free throws that could have sealed the game.
Instead, ICC's Allen Roberts took the ball and drove the length of the court in six seconds, stopping only to hit a tough layup in the paint that found the bottom of the net to move the Cougars in front 57-56 with no time showing on the clock.
Roberts was fouled on the play, and although the clock read 0:00, the horn had not sounded, meaning Roberts would get a chance to put the Cougars (14-8, 6-1) up by two. Missing the charity shot, Salem's Robbie Hurtt got the rebound as the horn sounded with ICC winning a tight 57-56 contest.
After surviving two close buzzer-beating games back-to-back that they may have lost last year, ICC Head Coach David Harmon talked about what makes this season's Cougar squad different.
"It's experience. We're a year older, and the guys have all been through the battles," he said. "We're basically playing the same tough schedule made up of good teams that we played last year. Hopefully, we're learning from our mistakes in the past and learning what it takes to win. Night-in and night-out, I think that's the difference."
Down by as many as 14 points late in the third frame, the Greyhounds (2-8, 0-6) roared back into contention with a 17-3 run over an 11-minute stretch in the last two periods.
Tyler Humphries (seven points) sank a pair of free throws at the 4:31 point of the fourth to complete the Greyhound comeback, tying the game at 46-all.
The Hounds not only deadlocked the score, they moved ahead by five points, 53-48, with 1:20 left in the game before the Cougars clawed their way back on top.
Justin Burns (17 points) drained his fifth trey on the night at the 1:00 mark, followed by a inside hoop from Robert Stephens (13 points) that pulled ICC within two, at 55-53.
A free throw from Salem's Justin Howell (10 points) with 21 seconds left moved the Greyhound advantage to three points before the fireworks began.
With eight ticks on the clock, ICC's fireplug guard, Jesse Dockins, found himself in the lane surrounded by Greyhounds. Dockins flipped up a baby hook shot that swished, barely moving the net, and pulling ICC within a single point, down 56-55.
After the Hounds came up short on a pair of shots from the charity stripe, Roberts (10 points) finished off ICC's dramatic win with his full-court drive-and-score to grab the win for the Cougars.
First it was Burns' big 3-pointer at the buzzer in the Thayer game, and then clutch shots late by Dockins and Roberts in the tilt with the Greyhounds. According to Harmon, when it comes to big shots, all his Cougars want the ball.
"Our guys are definitely not afraid to shoot the ball. They all want the big shot," he said. "I think it's important for us to have balanced scoring. I'd rather have that then have one guy that gets 20 points every night. If you spread the scoring around, it's harder for them to stop, rather than being able to just key on one guy."
Balanced scoring was just what the Cougars got, helping them to overcome a 9-3 deficit early in the first period.
Burns busted back-to-back treys late in the first to give ICC their first lead, 11-9, after one.
"He's been playing well this year. And shooting good also," Harmon said of Burns. "He shot about 71 percent behind the arc against Salem, and for the year he's at 45 percent on 3's, and 50 percent from the floor overall. We knew coming into this year that how he shot for us would be key."
The Cougars knocked in three more treys in the second period, but the Hounds fought back behind six points from Leon Harvey in the frame.
Harvey paced the Greyhounds with 16 points.
"We wanted to watch Harvey and Howell down low. Harvey's an active player, and Howell is just so strong. They got 15 rebounds between them, and that hurt us inside," Harmon said.
Holding a 29-20 lead at the half, the Cougars added to their margin in the third, getting another pair of 3-balls from Burns to go up 40-29 with 2:50 left in the frame before Salem came charging back.
Hurtt (nine points) tossed in a couple of hoops late to cut ICC's lead to 45-35 after three.
Opening the fourth in a full-court press, the Hounds slowed up ICC enough to get going on their offensive end, outscoring the Cougars 11-1 early in the fourth.
Despite their big comeback, the Greyhounds just couldn't leave Brockwell with a win as the Cougars stole the show late in the fourth.
Kyle Estes and Chad Willett tallied seven points each for Salem, while Jason Sherell tossed in nine, and Dockins five for ICC.
In girls' action, the Lady Cougars grabbed the lead from Salem late in the first period, leading the rest of the way to a 64-57 win over the Lady Greyhounds.
Salem (7-6, 3-3) made a run at the lead late in the game, but ICC (8-9, 4-3) closed the victory with seven free throws to post the 2AA-North win.
Trailing 57-52 with 1:58 left to play, Salem's Stephanie Barker (eight points) nailed a big 3-pointer that cut the Lady Cougar margin to 57-55.
While ICC added to their lead from the charity stripe, the Lady Hounds' next hoop came with 16 seconds left in the game, a little too late to move on top, with the Lady Cougars hanging on for the seven-point win.
The game featured a lot of action on the low blocks, with Salem's Heather Bales pacing the Lady Hounds with a game-high 23 points, while Blair Gay led the Lady Cougars with 17.
With the game locked at 12-all late in the first, ICC posted the last five points in the frame to hold a 17-12 lead after one.
Try as they might, the Lady Hounds just couldn't overtake the Lady Cougars, with ICC holding the advantage for the duration of the game.
Brittney Bales and Ashley Smith tossed in 10 points apiece for Salem, while Samantha Smith added six.
Mandy Haney posted 15 points for ICC, with Laura Gaskins adding nine.
Chelsie Yancey, Lauren Cunningham and Ariel Yancey all finished with seven, while Brandi Moser logged three points for the Lady Cougars.