It appeared that the host New Castle Trojans were going to use the 3-point shot to run Connersville out of the world’s largest high school gymnasium Tuesday night.
But the Spartans, paced by junior forward Grant Smith, had other ideas. Smith scored 13 of his career-high 33 points in the 4th quarter as CHS erased a 12-point 3rd quarter deficit to pull out a hard-earned 75-66 victory.
Connersville improves to 12-3, New Castle is 10-2.
With senior guard Andrew Garrett scorching the nets from 3-point land, the Trojans led 20-14 after one quarter and 36-30 at haltime. Garrett had 18 of his team-high 27 points in the 1st half.
Smith had 13 points in the 1st half, 11 in the opening quarter. Tyler Billups scored 7 points in the 2nd quarter, including a pair of 3-pointers, with Beau Isaacs scoring 5 points for coach Kerry Brown’s squad.
New Castle bolted to a 46-34 lead midway through the 3rd quarter, but 7 points by Smith and 6 from Billups helped CHS cut the lead to 53-47 entering the final 8 minutes.
The Spartans’ defense improved as the game progressed. Holding New Castle to 5 points during the 1st 4 minutes of the final period, CHS used a 3-pointer by Garrett Silcott and 9 straight points by Smith to roar to a 62-58 lead.
Billups scored back-to-back baskets, Smith and Silcott both made a pair of free throws to give Connersville an insurmountable 70-63 lead with 40 seconds left. Two free throws by Billups, another by Smith and a dunk by Billups closed out the scoring.
Billups finished with 19 points, Isaacs had 11 points and 7 rebounds, Silcott and Chandler Graves scored 5 points apiece and Dalton Huffman added 2.
Once again, the Spartans shot well from the charity stripe, making 18-of-22 free throws (81.8 percent).
Next up for Connersville is an Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference game against Batesville Saturday at Spartan Bowl (7:30 p.m.). The Bulldogs are 1-10 overall, 0-2 in the EIAC.
Batesville plays at Franklin County (7-5, 2-1 EIAC) Friday in a conference game. CHS leads the EIAC with a 3-0 record.
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