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Stingy Spartans

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Connersville junior Ethan Smith (34) takes a shot over the defense provided by East Central’s Jack Driggers Thursday at Spartan Bowl. Smith and the Spartans remained in the Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference race with a 37-17 win.
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Connersville senior Noah Belt drives to the basket for two of his game-high 15 points against East Central at Spartan Bowl on Thursday night. Belt and the Spartans defeated the visiting Trojans 37-17.
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Connersville junior Tanner Brock measures a shot from the wing at Spartan Bowl Thursday against East Central. Brock and the Spartans improved to 4-1 in the Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference with a 37-17 victory over the Trojans.

By GRADY TATE - gtate@newsexaminer.com

Needing a victory over East Central to remain in the Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference race, the Connersville High School boys basketball team struggled on offense, scoring only 18 points through the final three quarters of play, Thursday night at Spartan Bowl.

Fortunately for the Spartans, they didn’t need a single one of them.

After putting 19 points on the board in the opening quarter, the Spartans used a gritty and stubborn defensive effort to post a 37-17 victory over their conference rivals.

“To a T, I thought our kids followed the defensive scouting report really well,” Connersville head coach Kerry Brown said afterward. “(Trevor) Becker finished with only five points, and he was averaging a lot more than that. (Luke) Collinsworth scored only two points. Those two are as good a 1-2 punch as we’re going to see.

“Our guys guarding those two did a really nice job taking them out of the game, and our kids that weren’t guarding them did a great job helping them. That’s what we told them coming in, that it was going to require a total team effort.”

Connersville grabbed the early lead behind the hot hand of Jonah Graham, the sophomore shooter hitting a trio of 3-pointers to light up both the scoreboard and the Spartan crowd.

The Spartans would follow the 19-point quarter with only four points in the second, however.

“We got off to a great start, but after that we struggled,” Brown said. “You really have to give (East Central) some credit, they got out of their man-to-man defense and started going with some 1-3-1 and 1-2-2, etc. We didn’t handle the switch all that well, but we’ll go back, work on it some more, and get better.

“The boys know that they didn’t play well on offense, but someone told me that if you’re going to win a championship, you need to defend and rebound, and the kids did those things tonight.”

CHS (12-7 over all, 4-1 EIAC) was actually outscored in the second quarter 5-4, but the Spartans responded by totally locking the game down through the final two frames.

Becker scored a basket with 4:29 left in the third, and Logan Rohrbacher converted a field goal with 7:13 remaining in the game.

Those were the only two baskets the Trojans would get in the second half.

East Central (13-6, 3-1) managed only one other point in the second half, a free throw from D.J. Stroud with 39 seconds left to play.

Well prior to that point in the fourth quarter, both teams had reserve players on the floor.

“I never guessed that it was going to be a 20-point game, but it was good to get some guys in the game,” Brown said. “Those kids work hard in practice, so they deserve to get rewarded as well.”

Pacing CHS on the scoreboard was Noah Belt, the senior leading all scorers on the night with 15 points. Graham was next with 10 points. Clay Garrison and Ethan Smith both added six.

With the win, CHS moved ahead of the Trojans into second place in the EIAC standings. The Spartans still have two games left in league play — at Franklin County on Friday and at home against Lawrenceburg on Saturday.

Greensburg sits atop the conference at 6-0, and will face East Central in its final regular-season game on Friday, Feb. 22.

In the junior varsity game, CHS suffered a letdown in certain parts of its game, leading to a 33-24 loss.

One shortcoming was at the free-throw line, where the Spartan reserves finished 2-of-7 for the game. 

Connersville trailed by only two (23-21) heading into the fourth quarter, but managed only three points in the final stanza.

Tobey Billups led the junior varsity squad with a dozen points.

 

SPARTANS 37, TROJANS 17

(at Spartan Bowl)

East Central 7 12 14 17

Connersville 19 23 30 37

East Central (13-6 over all, 3-1 EIAC) — Jadyn Dennis 0 0-0 0, Aidan Knecht 0 0-0 0, Motoki Takemura 0 0-1 0, D.J. Stroud 0 1-2 1, A.J. Messmore 0 0-0 0, Matt Mages 1 0-0 3, John Hotel 0 0-0 0, Alex Maxwell 1 0-0 2, Jack Hutchins 0 0-0 0, Logan Rohrbacher 1 0-0 2, Trevor Becker 2 0-0 5, Jack Driggers 1 0-0 2, Luke Collinsworth 1 0-0 2, T.D. Dickerson 0 0-0 0. TOTALS 7 1-3 17.

Connersville (12-7, 4-1) — Jonah Graham 3 1-2 10, Clay Garrison 2 1-1 6, Tobey Billups 0 0-0 0, Tanner Brock 0 0-0 0, Dylan Logan 0 0-0 0, Colton Sullenbarger 0 0-0 0, Noah Belt 7 0-0 15, Ethan Smith 3 0-0 6, Trevor Young 0 0-0 0, Damon Huffman 0 0-0 0, Jacob Brown 0 0-0 0. TOTALS 15 2-3 37.

3-pointers — East Central 2 (Mages, Becker), Connersville 5 (Graham 3, Garrison, Belt). Rebounds — East Central 13, Connersville 17. Turnovers — East Central 15, Connersville 18. Total fouls — East Central 9 (Maxwell 4, Messmore, Mages, Hotel, Hutchins, Becker), Connersville 11 (Garrison 3, Sullenbarger 2, Graham, Brock, Logan, Belt, Huffman, Brown).

Junior Varsity

TROJANS 33, SPARTANS 24

East Central 8 19 23 33

Connersville 7 14 21 24

East Central — Devin Gaines 0 0-0 0, Aidan Knecht 1 1-2 3, Jadyn Dennis 0 2-3 2, D.J. Stroud 1 0-0 3, Ryan Bond 0 2-2 2, Griffin Werner 0 0-0 0, John Hotel 0 0-0 0, Reid Cleary 0 0-0 0, Derek Richter 0 0-0 0, A.J. Messmore 6 1-2 15, Sam Kirchgassner 1 0-0 2, T.D. Dickerson 2 2-3 6, J.J. Stenger 0 0-0 0. TOTALS 11 8-11 33.

Connersville — Carter Bodwell 0 0-2 0, Tobey Billups 4 2-4 12, Luke Garrison 0 0-0 0, Luke Sullenbarger 1 0-1 2, Rudy Branstetter 0 0-0 0, Riley Moore 0 0-0 0, Sebastian Burch 0 0-0 0, Kaleb Sparks 0 0-0 0, Trevor Young 3 0-0 6, Damon Huffman 1 0-0 2, Cole Martin 1 0-0 2. TOTALS 10 2-7 24.

3-pointers — East Central 3 (Messmore 2, Stroud 1), Connersville 2 (Billups 2). Total fouls — East Central 11 (Hotel 3, Gaines 2, Dennis 2, Knecht, Stroud, Bond, Dickerson), Connersville 15 (Billups 4, Sullenbarger 4, Sparks 3, Martin 3, Young 1).