Quality basketball teams have a good mix of everything: talent, size, capable scorers, solid defenders, fundamentally sound players who grasp the team-game concept. The list is lengthy.
Those traits will be on display on both sides of the court Saturday when Connersville hosts Muncie Central at Spartan Bowl in non-conference play (7:30 p.m.). The Spartans are idle tonight; the Bearcats play at Richmond in a North Central Conference game.
CHS is coming off a 59-27 dismantling of Greensburg, a victory that puts the Spartans in the driver’s seat in the Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference with a 3-0 record. Connersville is 10-3 overall. Muncie Central (8-3) lost at home to Noblesville, 60-57, on Jan. 9.
Like the Spartans, the Bearcats have a versatile lineup that features a balanced scoring attack. However, Central averages nearly 72 points a game, with eight players scoring between 5.0 and 13.9 a contest. The Spartans score 52.8 an outing. Defensively, Muncie Central gives up 63.5 points; CHS surrenders just 43.4.
“They do a little bit of everything. They’ve got some kids that can really play and they play 11 guys,” said Connersville coach Kerry Brown. “They like to get up and down the floor, they like to run. They attack you in a lot of ways.”
Senior guard Phillip Corthen leads the Bearcats in scoring, averaging 13.9 points a game, but 6-5 senior Andre Jones inflicts the most damage on opponents, scoring 12.4 points, pulling down 9.5 rebounds and passing for 2 assists.
However, the Spartans biggest problem — literally — will be Donald Allen, a 6-8, 285-pound senior who averages 10.6 points and 5.3 boards. Allen was nearly unstoppable last season when the Bearcats crushed the Big Red, 62-35, at Muncie.
“He’s lost some weight but he’s still a monster inside and he’s moving a lot better this year,” said Brown. “He actually looks pretty nimble. It will take more than one man for us to stop him.”
Bearcats coach Jeff Holloway also gets strong contributions from senior Duane Clemens (8.3 points), 6-2 junior Trenton Hatfield (6.9 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists), 5-11 junior Jamel Barnes (6.7 points) and 6-1 junior Tyrek Vicks (5.2 points).
Brown and the Spartans would like to see a continuation of the shooting performance unleashed against Greensburg, which saw CHS shoot 23-for-35 from the floor (65.7 percent) and 7-of-11 from 3-point territory (63.6 percent).
Tyler Billups possibly secured an All-EIAC berth with a 6-for-9 shooting night (3-of-4 3-pointers), finishing with a game-high 15 points and 4 assists. Beau Isaacs continued his strong play with 12 points and a game-high 6 rebounds. Grant Smith and Noah Belt scored 8 points each and Dalton Huffman came off the bench to score 6 points and snag 5 boards.
“It was a great win for us. We did what we set out to do which is good, and we’re halfway there, as far as our goal for this month, which is to go 2-0 in the conference. We’ve got one win and want to get another one,” Brown said. “But we told the kids ‘this is a new game.’ … Beating Greensburg was great but it doesn’t mean anything Saturday night.”
The things CHS must do to beat a strong Muncie Central team are clear, according to Brown. “We need to take care of the ball and limit our turnovers and we need to make our shots,” he said. “It’s going to take a really good team effort on both ends of the floor, offensively and defensively, to win. We’ll probably have to play our best game of the year to get a W.”
CHS stats: Grant Smith: 11.8 p, 5.3 r, 3.1 a; Beau Isaacs: 11.6 p, 6.5 r; Tyler Billups: 11.4 p, 2.9 r, 1.5 a; Garrett Silcott: 8.3 p, 3.5 a, 3.2 r; Noah Belt: 3.9 p; Dalton Huffman: 2.3 p, 1.2 r; Chandler Graves: 2.2 p, 3.3 r, 1 a; Dalton Lee: 2.0 p, 1.0 r; Wes Smith: 1.2 p.
Most area teams are in action tonight. The schedule includes:
Muncie Central (8-3) at Richmond (4-10) (North Central Conference)
Rushville (4-6) at Mt. Vernon (Fortville, 9-2)
Union County (7-4) at Shenandoah (10-0, No. 4 Class 2A)
Liberty Christian (11-2, No. 1 Class A) vs. Seton Catholic (Richmond) (14-2, No. 2 Class A, 8 p.m. at Earlham College)
Northeastern (9-1, No. 3 Class 2A) at Indianapolis Attucks (9-2, No. 9 Class 3A)
Cambridge City Lincoln (5-5) at Tri (5-6) (Tri-Eastern Conference)
Centerville (1-7) at Knightstown (5-4)
Hagerstown (9-4) at Winchester (5-4) (TEC)
New Castle (8-1) at Greenfield-Central (9-3)
New Albany (9-1, No. 3 Class 4A) at Madison (6-4)
Morristown (3-6) at South Decatur (2-10)
Pendleton Heights (6-5) at New Palestine (3-8)
Hauser (7-4) at Lawrenceburg (7-4)
Rising Sun (6-5) at Milan (4-5)
Mr. Pizza, Cambridge City
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