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Survive and move on

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Connersville guard Clay Garrison, center, drives between a pair of Rushville defenders in an Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference game, Friday night inside Memorial Gymnasium in Rushville. Garrison and the Spartans opened their conference schedule with a 43-42 victory over the Lions.
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Connersville’s Ethan Smith scores afield goal over Rushville’s Mason Springman (24) with 1:23 left in Friday’s Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference game between the two teams at Rushville. Smith’s basket was the final one of the game, and helped the Spartans pull out a 43-42 victory over the Lions.
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Connersville junior Jacob Brown scores a third-quarter layup against Rushville’s Gage Rosenfeld(2), Friday night at Memorial Gymnasium in Rushville. Brown and the Spartans defeated the Lions, 43-42, improving to 2-1 on the season.

By GRADY TATE - gtate@newsexaminer.com

RUSHVILLE — With the exception of a one-point loss at Batesville last season, you’d have to go all the way back to 2014 to find an Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference loss for the Connersville High School boys basketball team. In that Dec. 5 game, the Spartans fell to Rushville, 38-35, starting conference play 0-1.

Friday night inside Memorial Gymnasium, history nearly repeated itself.

Connersville senior Noah Belt went 4-for-4 from the free throw line in the final minute of the game, and Rushville failed to match that, going 3-for-6 from the stripe, allowing the Spartans to escape Rush County with a 43-42 victory.

“I told the kids following the game that we still need to get better, but to be happy with getting a win on the road,” Connersville coach Kerry Brown said. “Sometimes, it’s not how pretty it looks, because there have been times in the past when we’ve played some good games but gotten beat. Sometimes it’s okay to play ugly, win a game, and go back to Connersville 1-0 in the conference.”

Connersville constructed a lead that grew as high as 12 (31-19) with 2:49 left in the third quarter, but Rushville rallied from that point, and took its only lead of the game with 2:49 left in the final frame, Tyler Wilson’s fourth 3-pointer of the game giving the home team a 39-38 advantage.

“We had some really good minutes, and I thought we were in control of the game a couple of times,” Brown said. “But give Rushville credit. Each time we would run it up, they would respond.”

CHS junior Ethan Smith scored a lay-up with 1:23 left to play, the game’s final basket, giving the Spartans back a one-point lead.

Free throw shooting took it from there.

Belt would hit two with 53 seconds remaining, pushing the lead to 42-39, then add two more with 24 ticks on the clock to again make it a 3-point game, 43-40.

Rushville earned three trips to the charity stripe in the final 31 seconds. Logan Graddy started that parade, going 1-for-2 and was followed by Duncan Draper, who missed both of his chances two seconds later.

Graddy made another appearance at the line with 13 seconds to go, hitting both shots, creating the eventual final score. Rushville would try to foul the Spartans in the final frantic seconds, but the Spartans played keep-away and prevented that from happening.

“When things got really crazy late in the game, I was proud of our kids and the way they persevered,” Brown said. “This was the first time that this group has been in this situation, so it would have been easy for them to have folded up their tents, particularly on the road.

“The kids played with some grit down the stretch, hitting some free throws late when we had to. We also got some key stops on defense, late in the game.”

Belt wound up as the game’s leading scorer, finishing with 20 points. Included in that number was a 7-for-9 performance from the free throw line. He was aided by seven points from Clay Garrison and six from center Jacob Brown.

Rushville was paced by 13 points from Graddy and a dozen from Tyler Wilson.

“It’s always good to earn a conference win on the road,” coach Brown summed up.

In the junior varsity game, a huge fourth-quarter surge lifted the Spartan reserves to a 51-33 victory.

With the game tied 29-29 early in the final frame, Connersville turned up the defensive pressure in a big way, converting resulting Rushville turnovers into a 22-4 run to close out the contest.

Trevor Young finished with a game-high 12 points, 10 of those coming during the critical fourth quarter push. Kaleb Sparks followed with 11 and Cole Martin added 10.

Three Rushville players — Camren Munchel, Evan Elmore and Joey Sheehan — finished with seven.

Connersville faced Shelbyville in non-conference action Saturday night (results not available at press time) and will host Pendleton Height at Spartan Bowl on Saturday.

SPARTANS 43, LIONS 42

(at Memorial Gymnasium, Rushville)

Connersville 11 22 33 43

Rushville 4 13 26 42

Connersville (2-1) — Jonah Graham 1 0-0 3, Clay Garrison 1 4-4 7, Tanner Brock 0 0-0 0, Garrett Wickes 1 0-0 3, Dylan Logan 0 0-0 0, Colton Sullenbarger 0 0-0 0, Noah Belt 5 7-9 20, Ethan Smith 2 0-1 4, Damon Huffman 0 0-0 0, Jacob Brown 2 2-4 6. TOTALS 12 13-18 43.

Rushville (0-2) — Gage Rosenfeld 3 0-0 8, Tyler Wilson 4 0-0 12, Evan Elmore 0 0-0 0, Eric Brown 1 0-0 3, Logan Graddy 3 7-8 13, Mason Springman 0 3-4 3, Hayden Walls 1 0-0 2, Duncan Draper 0 1-4 1. TOTALS 12 11-16 42.

3-pointers — Connersville 6 (Belt 3, Graham, Garrison, Wickes), Rushville 7 (Wilson 4, Rosenfeld 2, Brown 1). Rebounds — Connersville 24, Rushville 24. Turnovers — Connersville 10, Rushville 11. Total fouls — Connersville 16 (Wickes 4, Brown 3, Garrison 3, Sullenbarger 2, Belt 2, Graham, Brock), Rushville 17 (Rosenfeld 4, Graddy 4, Walls 3, Draper 3, Tyler, Brown, Springman).

JUNIOR VARSITY

Spartans 51, Lions 33

Connersville 3 18 25 51

Rushville 6 15 25 33

Connersville — Carter Bodwell 1 2-2 4, Tobey Billups 0 0-0 0, Tanner Brock 2 0-0 5, Luke Garrison 0 0-0 0, Luke Sullenbarger 2 0-0 4, Riley Moore 1 0-0 3, Sebastian Burch 1 0-0 2, Kaleb Sparks 1 8-8 11, Trevor Young 5 1-1 12, Damon Huffman 0 0-0 0, Cole Martin 2 5-6 10. TOTALS 15 16-17 51.

Rushville — Jonathan Ordas 1 0-0 2, Cameron Jackman 0 2-2 2, Camren Munchel 2 2-2 7, Carter Tague 0 0-0 0, Alec Evans 0 0-0 0, Dylan Romans 1 0-0 2, Dylan Montgomery 1 1-2 3, Hayden Walls 1 1-2 3, Evan Elmore 2 3-5 7, Ty Ervine 0 0-0 0, Austin Cook 0 0-0 0, Joey Sheehan 3 1-2 7. TOTALS 11 10-15 33.

3-pointers — Connersville 5 (Brock, Moore, Sparks, Young, Martin), Rushville 1 (Munchel 1). Total fouls — Connersville 14 (Billups 4, Moore 2, Young 2, Bodwell, Brock, Sullenbarger, Sparks, Huffman, Martin), Rushville 17 (Romans 4, Sheehan 3, Munchel 2, Elmore 2, Ordas, Jackman, Tague, Montgomery, Walls, Cook).