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Trojan rally

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Connersville’s Carter Bodwell, left, runs into a double team in Saturday’s junior varsity game against New Castle at Spartan Bowl. Bodwell and the Spartan reserves hung on for a 39-38 victory over the Trojans.
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Connersville Garrett Wickes prepares to make a pass at Spartan Bowl on Saturday night. Wickes and the Spartans saw a 16-point second-half lead evaporate in a 70-69 loss to New Castle.
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Connersville’s Clay Garrison scores a lay-up against New Castle, as Nicholas Grieser (24) looks on. Garrison scored 10 points, one of three Spartans in double figures on Saturday, but it was the Trojans who escaped Spartan Bowl with a 70-69 overtime victory.

By GRADY TATE - gtate@newsexaminer.com

A quick look at the boxscore from Saturday night’s game between New Castle and Connersville will reveal a whopping 35 points from Trojan senior Luke Bumbalough.

In spite of that, however, it was not a do-it-yourself night for the Ball State basketball recruit.

In fact, Bumbalough didn’t make the two most important shots of the game. Those belonged to Nicholas Grieser and Blake Burris.

Grieser’s off-balance 3-pointer with seconds remaining in regulation found its mark, sending the game into overtime, and Burris’ hotly contested field goal with five seconds to play in the extra period clinched a 70-69 come-from-behind win.

“Our timing was there, we just didn’t get a stop or two to finish the game and some of that is on me,” Connersville coach J.D. Miller said following the loss. “As a coach, I need to make the kids understand what they need to do in order to finish out a game like this.

“It was a disappointing night, but I told them in the locker room to get their heads up, that I was very proud of their effort.”

While Grieser and Burris might get the mention for hitting the two most memorable shots in the game, Bumbalough gets credit for doing, well, just about everything else for the Trojans.

The senior shooter scored 17 points in the fourth quarter alone, hitting shot after shot to carve a Connersville lead that, with 6:38 left to play in the game, was 45-29.

“New Castle did a great job of competing. They made baskets when it was crucial,” Miller said. “They’re a very good basketball team. They defeated Richmond (Friday night), a team that has several very skilled players, by a score of 73-48, so we knew this would be a test.”

For more than three quarters, it appeared that the Spartans would pass that test with flying colors. With head coach Kerry Brown absent for a second straight game, due to the death of his father, Connersville responded with an inspired effort.

“The kids battled, and competed tonight, but without coach Brown here tonight, we were a man down,” Miller said. “In spite of that, it didn’t affect the kids, they came ready to play. I think they came out wanting to play this one for coach Brown. We just came up a bucket short.”

Leading 16-7 after one quarter, CHS raised the stakes to 28-17 by halftime, and 41-28 heading into the fourth.

A pair of baskets by Noah Belt, sandwiched around a free throw from Bumbalough, gave the Spartans their largest lead of the game at the 6:38 mark.

Through the remainder of regulation, however, Connersville was outscored 34-18, as the game descended into an overtime that no one saw coming.

Connersville was led by Belt’s 22 points. He was followed by Jacob Brown, who poured in 18 from his post position.

“Jacob had a hunger in his eye tonight, and from the beginning, we tried to get him in a position where he could do something with the basketball,” Miller said. “He did a great job, and finished several times at the rim.”

Clay Garrison added 10 for the Spartans.

The junior varsity game was every bit as exciting, as the two reserve teams set the table with a one-point game (39-38), won by the Spartans.

Connersville led by scores of 11-3 (after one), 19-11 (halftime), and 29-21 (after three), but in what turned out to be a preview of the varsity contest, the Trojans had a comeback in mind in the fourth.

Cutting the CHS lead to three (39-36) with seconds remaining, New Castle knocked down what many thought was a game-tying 3-pointer. But the shot was ruled a two-point goal instead, allowing the Spartans to hang on for the victory.

Luke Sullenbarger scored 11 points to lead Connersville, and he was followed by Damon Huffman with nine.

Connersville is back in action on Saturday, as the team travels to Muncie Central.

“Our kids will bounce back, they’re resilient. But I am proud of the kids tonight,” Miller said. “Right now, each one of us in Spartan Nation has the Brown family in all of our prayers.”

TROJANS 70, SPARTANS 69 OT

(at Spartan Bowl)

New Castle 7 17 28 63 70

Connersville 16 28 41 63 69

New Castle (5-5) — Luke Bumbalough 11 8-10 35, Blake Burris 4 0-0 11, Mason Hardwick 4 0-0 10, Nicholas Grieser 4 0-0 9, Brandon Matney 0 0-0 0, Cole McDaniel 2 0-0 5, Collin Blessinger 0 0-0 0, William Grieser 0 0-0 0. TOTALS 25 8-10 70.

Connersville (8-5) — Jonah Graham 0 3-4 3, Clay Garrison 3 4-4 10, Garrett Wickes 3 0-2 8, Dylan Logan 0 0-0 0, Colton Sullenbarger 0 0-0 0, Noah Belt 6 9-10 22, Ethan Smith 4 0-0 8, Jacob Brown 9 0-2 18. TOTALS 25 16-22 69.

3-pointers — New Castle 12 (Bumbalough 5, Burris 3, Hardwick 2, N. Grieser, McDaniel), Connersville 3 (Wickes 2, Belt). Total fouls — New Castle 20 (Burris 4, Bumbalough 3, Hardwick 3, N. Grieser 3, Matney 3, McDaniel 3, W. Grieser 1), Connersville 13 (Belt 4, Smith 3, Graham 2, Garrison, Logan, Sullenbarger, Brown).

JUNIOR VARSITY

Spartans 39, Trojans 38

New Castle 3 11 21 38

Connersville 11 19 29 39

New Castle — Derek Tabor 2 1-2 5, Michael Holmes 4 0-0 12, Trey Miller 4 1-3 10, Dillon Bergum 3 0-0 9, Jackson Clapp 0 0-0 0, Cooper Rusch 0 0-0 0, Isaac French 0 2-2 2, Nathan Smith 0 0-0 0, Devin Fielden 0 0-0 0. TOTALS 13 4-7 38.

Connersville — Carter Bodwell 2 0-1 5, Tobey Billups 1 0-0 2, Tanner Brock 1 0-0 2, Luke Garrison 1 0-0 2, Luke Sullenbarger 5 1-1 11, Riley Moore 0 0-0 0, Sebastian Burch 0 0-0 0, Kaleb Sparks 1 0-0 3, Trevor Young 2 0-0 5, Damon Huffman 4 1-1 9, Cole Martin 0 0-0 0. TOTALS 17 2-3 39.

3-pointers — New Castle 8 (Holmes 4, Bergum 3, Miller), Connersville 3 (Bodwell, Sparks, Young). Total fouls — New Castle 13 (Miller 3, French 3, Fielden 2, Tabor, Bergum, Holmes, Rusch, Smith), Connersville 12 (Bodwell 3, Billups 2, Sullenbarger 2, Burch 2, Moore, Young, Huffman).