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First hurdle - Check!

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With Batesville's Charlie Dice (25) providing defense against him, Connersville center Jacob Brown (50) goes to the basket, collecting two of his 12 points in an Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference contest between the two teams at Spartan Bowl on Tueday night.
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Connersville's Clay Garrison (10) weaves between a pair of Batesville players, Tuesday evening at Spartan Bowl. Garrison and the Spartans improved to 3-1 in the Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference with a 55-45 victory over the visiting Bulldogs.
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Connersville head coach Kerry Brown goes over a play with his starters during a time-out against Batesville inside Spartan Bowl on Tuesday night. Brown helped lead the Spartans to a 55-45 victory over the Bulldogs, improving to 3-1 in the Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference.

By GRADY TATE - gtate@newsexaminer.com

The road to Connersville's fifth consecutive Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference championship will be a rocky one, to be sure. But at least the high school boys basketball team can say that they're still on that road.

Following a 55-45 loss to the Spartans at Spartan Bowl on Tuesday night, Batesville can no longer say the same thing.

While Connersville improved to 3-1 with the victory, the Bulldogs fell to 3-2 in the conference, eliminating their chance at catching unbeaten Greensburg (6-0).

The Pirates have only one game remaining in EIAC play, a showdown with East Central on the final day of the regular season, Feb. 22. The Trojans are also undefeated in the league at 3-0, so it's a good bet that game will pretty much sort things out.

For CHS, with elimination on the line Tuesday, getting past Batesville was the only objective.

The visitors didn't make it easy.

Through the first two quarters, neither team asserted itself over the other, as the largest lead before halftime rose to only four, Batesville holding that three times in the second quarter at 11-7 (6:57), 13-9 (5:24) and 16-12 (4:08).

Connersville fought back from all three deficits, and claimed the lead (23-21) before halftime.

"We made too many turnovers before halftime, but the kids never quit," Connersville coach Kerry Brown said. "(Batesville) used its length and really came after us.

"I think this is one of the most athletic kids that coach Aaron Garrett has had down there. Knowing that, I had little doubt that they would present some challenges for us. I really hope that we challenged them, as well."

Indeed, CHS did.

Following the halftime break, the Spartans came out of the locker room and outscored their guests 11-5 to open up their biggest lead of the game at 34-26, heading into the fourth quarter.

Noah Belt scored six points on three field goals in the third, and the Connersville senior was aided by a basket from Jacob Brown and a 3-pointer from Jonah Graham. Holding the Bulldogs to five points in the frame was just as important as scoring those points, coach Brown pointed out.

"I thought that on defense we played pretty solid, especially since we really only had one day to prepare for them," coach Brown said. "They run so much between out of bounds and halfcourt, that I was worried that we didn't do enough in practice.

 

"Give the kids a lot of credit though. For the most part, they did a great job."

In the fourth quarter, CHS' lead grew to 12 (45-33 with 2:38 left) but Batesville carved that down to 48-43 little more than a minute later.

Connersville held off the Bulldogs from the free throw line, however, hitting 10-of-12 shots from the stripe in the quarter.

"It was a hard-fought win, and I really thought it was going to be tougher than this going into it," coach Brown said. "I think doing a better job handling the basketball in the second half and hitting our free throws down the stretch really made the difference."

For the game, the Spartans were 18-of-22 from the free throw line, remarkable considering that Batesville took only 10 attempts from the stripe.

"That is a mark that, if you can make more free throws than the other team even attempts, you're going to be pretty successful most of the time," Brown said.

Belt led the Spartans with 17 points, followed by Ethan Smith and Brown, both with 12. Batesville was paced by Robert Raver's 16 tallies.

In the junior varsity game, Connersville took a 30-26 lead into the fourth quarter, and hung on for a 44-43 victory.

CHS led at both stops in the first half, 13-10 after one, and 20-14 following the second quarter.

Luke Sullenbarger scored 10 points to lift the Spartan reserves. He was followed by Damon Huffman (8 points), Riley Moore (7) and Cole Martin (6) in the scoring column.

With the Batesville test behind them, Connersville now looks forward to three more conference clashes, beginning with East Central tonight at Spartan Bowl.

 

"This keeps us with only one loss in the conference and keeps us in the race, as long as we can get some help with Greensburg later," coach Brown said. "We still have a big game against East Central this week, and then two more conference games next week.

"We have to stay focused and play hungry. I reminded them that we're still playing for the conference, but we're also building toward the sectional coming up as well."

 

 

SPARTANS 55, BULLDOGS 45

(at Spartan Bowl)

Batesville`9`21`26`45

Connersville`7`23`34`55

Batesville (11-6 over all, 3-2 EIAC) — Robert Raver 6-15 3-5 16, Tyler Myers 0-1 0-0 0, Trey Heidlage 1-5 0-0 3, Colt Meyer 3-11 0-0 8, R.J. Powell 5-9 0-0 11, Sam Voegele 0-1 2-2 2, Charlie Dice 2-4 3-3 5, Lleyton Ratcliffe 0-0 0-0 0, Seth Gausman 0-0 0-0 0, Thomas Raver 0-0 0-0 0, Bill Lynam 0-0 0-0 0, Cole Werner 0-0 0-0 0. TOTALS 17-46 8-10 45.

Connersville (11-7, 3-1) — Jonah Graham 1-6 3-4 6, Clay Garrison 2-2 0-0 6, Tobey Billups 0-0 0-0 0, Tanner Brock 0-0 0-0 0, Dylan Logan 0-0 0-0 0, Colton Sullenbarger 0-0 0-0 0, Noah Belt 5-10 7-8 17, Ethan Smith 3-5 6-7 12, Trevor Young 0-0 0-0 0, Damon Huffman 0-0 0-0 0, Jacob Brown 6-8 0-1 12. TOTALS 17-31 18-22 55.

Shooting — Batesville 17-46 (.36.9 percent), Connersville 17-31 (54.8 percent). 3-pointers — Batesville 5 (Meyer 2, Raver, Heidlage, Powell), Connersville 3 (Garrison 2, Graham 1). Rebounds — Batesville 16, Connersville 19. Blocked shots — Batesville 2 (Myers 2), Connersville 4 (Brown 3, Smith 1). Turnovers — Batesville 10, Connersville 13. Fouled out — Batesville 1 (Myers). Total fouls — Batesville 19 (Myers 5, R. Raver 3, Heidlage 3, Voegele 3, Meyer 2, Powell 2, Dice 1), Connersville 13 (Brown 4, Garrison 4, Graham 2, Belt 2, Smith 1).

Junior Varsity

SPARTANS 44, BULLDOGS 43

Batesville`10`14`26`43

Connersville`13`20`30`44

Batesville — Seth Gausman 6 0-0 15, Bill Lynam 1 1-2 3, Pierson 0 0-0 0, Cole Werner 1 0-0 3, Lleyton Ratcliffe 2 2-2 6, Austin Siefert 1 0-1 2, Thomas Raver 5 1-2 14. TOTALS 16 4-7 43.

Connersville — Carter Bodwell 0 0-0 0, Tobey Billups 2 0-0 4, Tanner Brock 3 0-1 6, Luke Garrison 0 0-0 0, Luke Sullenbarger 2 4-6 10, Riley Moore 2 2-2 7, Sebastian Burch 0 0-0 0, Kaleb Sparks 1 0-0 3, Trevor Young 0 0-0 0, Damon Huffman 4 0-0 8, Cole Martin 3 0-0 6. TOTALS 17 6-9 44.

3-pointers — Batesville 7 (Gausman 3, Raver 3, Werner 1), Connersville 4 (Sullenbarger 2, Moore, Sparks).