Playing back-to-back basketball games isn’t the easiest thing for a team. When the competition is comprised of arguably the two best opponents on the schedule, the task is even more difficult.
That’s the situation the Connersville Spartans face, beginning tonight when Mt. Vernon (Fortville) invades Spartan Bowl for a 7:30 p.m. contest between potential Sectional 9 combatants.
On Saturday, CHS (13-3) travels to Mooresville to challenge the 10-4 Pioneers.
“This weekend will simulate what the sectional will be like. We’re going to play two excellent teams and we’re excited about it,” said Connersville head coach Kerry Brown.
Mt. Vernon (12-2) is a veteran team with height, talent and depth. The Marauders only losses are to Decatur Central, 57-48, and New Castle, 55-54. In it’s last outing, Mt. Vernon beat Hamilton Southeastern, 59-51.
“Mt. Vernon has everything. They do it all,” Brown said. “They’re just an excellent team and probably the favorite to win the sectional.”
Michael Ertel, a smooth 6-1 junior, averages a team-leading 17.9 points, 3.6 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game for the Marauders, with 6-6 junior Erick Shepherd contrbuting 13.6 points, 6.1 rebounds and a strong inside presence.
Six-five senior Michael Thompson is a handful, averaging 9.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.4 assists, 6-5 junior James McCloud contributes 8.0 points and 3.5 rebounds with 6-0 senior Miles Wayer averaging 9.8 points and 2.7 assists for coach Travis Daugherty’s team.
“They can stroke it, they really shoot the ball well,” Brown said about Ertel and Shepherd in particular, and the Mauraders in general. “They run motion sets, they get out in transition a lot, they do it all. They’re just an excellent team. We’ll have our hands full.”
Mt. Vernon has won 4 straight games and 9 of its last 10. The Marauders’ only losses are to Decatur Central, 57-48, and New Castle, 55-54. CHS beat host New Castle, 75-66, on Jan. 19.
Against Mooresville, the Spartans will go against a hard-playing squad featuring one of the most explosive players the team will face. KC Earls, a senior guard, averages 24.1 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.5 assists for the Pioneers.
“He is flat-out impressive — very impressive,” Brown said about the 6-1 Earls. “He can really shoot the ball and he has a quick release. (Mt. Vernon’s) Ertel is the same way. You think you’re guarding them well and they just stop, raise up and shoot it on you.”
Four other seniors provide plenty of punch for the Pioneers. Six-two forward Landon Harder averages 13.2 points, 3.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists an outing, 6-4 Luke Kenney scores 9.6 points, grabs 8.2 rebounds and blocks 3.0 shots, 6-1 playmaker Cameron Harris averages 4.7 points, 6.4 assists and 2.5 rebounds and 6-5 Trent Porter averages 6.4 points and 2.4 caroms.
“Kenney is an excellent player, he does a lot for them,” noted Brown. “Harder, Harris — all of their kids play well. It will take an excellent effort to win there.”
CHS won’t have to contend with a deliberate attack similar to the one used by Batesville last Saturday in the Spartans’ 39-28 win over the Bulldogs in Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference play.
The raggedy-played game resulted in just one Spartan reaching double-figures in scoring; sophomore guard Garrett Silcott tallied 12 points and passed for a game-high 5 assists.
Tyler Billups added 9 points and 3 rebounds for the Big Red, Beau Isaacs had 8 points and 6 rebounds, Grant Smith and Chandler Graves both scored 5 points. Foul trouble limited the effectiveness of Isaacs and Smith, who finished with 4 fouls each.
No matter what the results are from this weekend’s double-dip, the experience and competition will help make CHS become an even better team.
“It’s going to be a good weekend and it’s going to be two really good tests for us,” said Brown. “It will prepare us for what we want to do in March. We’ve got a great group of hard-working kids and we’re looking forward to these two games.”
The Spartans weekend opponents played each other on Dec. 30, with Mt. Vernon defeating Mooresville, 51-50.
• Grant Smith: 12.8 p, 4.9 r, 3.1 a, 1.5 st, 1.1 bks
• Tyler Billups: 11.8 p, 3.2 r, 1.5 a, 1.1 st
• Beau Isaacs: 11.1 p, 6.6 r, 0.8 a, 0.9 st
• Garrett Silcott: 9.0 p, 3.4 a, 2.9 r, 1.1 st
• Noah Belt: 3.5 p, 0.7 r
• Chandler Graves: 2.4 p, 3.6 r, 0.9 a, 0.9 st
• Dalton Huffman: 2.0 p, 1.1 r
• Dalton Lee: 2.0 p, 1.0 r
• Wes Smith: 1.2 p, 0.6 r
Connersville area / games of interest
Friday, Jan. 29
Mt. Vernon (Fortville) at Connersville
South Dearborn at Rushville (EIAC)
Columbus East at East Central
North Decatur at Batesville
South Ripley (No. 13 Class 2A) at Lawrenceburg
Cambridge City Lincoln at Northeastern (No. 3 Class 2A) (TEC)
Harrison (West Lafayette) at Richmond
Muncie Burris at Seton Catholic (No. 3 Class A)
Tri at Winchester (TEC)
Union City at Hagerstown (TEC)
Muncie Central at Indianapolis Tech (No. 10 Class 4A)
Greenfield-Central at Pendleton Heights
Greenwood at Shelbyville
Irvington Prep Academy at Eastern Hancock
Saturday, Jan. 30
Connersville at Mooresville
Oxford Talawanda (Ohio) at Franklin County
Union County at Jac-Cen-Del
Liberty Christian (No. 1 Class A) at Northeastern (No. 3 Class 2A)
North Decatur at East Central
Hauser at Batesville
Centerville at Shenandoah (No. 4 Class 2A)
Union City at Ansonia (Ohio)
New Castle at Carmel
Delta at Mt. Vernon (Fortville)
Eastern Hancock at Greenfield-Central
Indianapolis Pike (No. 4 Class 4A) at Pendleton Heights
Fort Wayne Snider at Muncie Central
Morristown at Knightstown
Mr. Pizza, Cambridge City
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