It’s said that the best things in life are free. That was the case for the Connersville Spartans Tuesday night. Free throws, that is.
CHS made 30-of-32 foul shots — an eye-popping 93.7 percent — 19-of-20 in the final quarter, to defeat Class 2A No. 3 Northeastern, 69-56, in the final game of the regular season at Spartan Bowl.
Junior Grant Smith was money all night, making all 16 of his freebies and scoring 20 points to top Connersville (19-5). Smith, who was 12-for-12 from the line in the 4th quarter, also had a game-leading 8 assists and 7 rebounds.
Sophomore point guard Garrett Silcott was 10-of-10 from the stripe, finishing with 19 points and 3 assists. Silcott made all 6 of his foul shots in the final quarter.
Junior Beau Isaacs, who scored 16 points and pulled down 5 rebounds, was 2-for-3 from the line and guard Chandler Graves, playing his final game at the Bowl on Senior Night, made 2 of his 3 charity tosses en route to 4 points and 5 rebounds.
Tyler Billups was the only Spartan starter who didn’t attempt a free throw, but it didn’t matter much, as the senior shooting guard was all over the court in scoring 10 points, grabbing 7 rebounds and recording 3 steals.
Things didn’t look well early for the Spartans, thanks primarily to the talented Smith brothers duo — Troy, a 6-2 junior guard, and Robert, a 6-7 senior center.
Troy Smith made back-to-back 3-pointers in the 1st 95 seconds and Robert got inside for three buckets, including a dunk after a steal. Suddenly, it was 15-5 Northeastern, forcing CHS coach Kerry Brown to call a timeout.
“We had to get our composure and slow it down. They were comfortable and we weren’t,” said Brown. “I didn’t like the way we were playing. We had to take a time out to settle down.”
Silcott went coast-to-coast for a layin, Grant Smith got a two-hand slam after a steal and assist by Billups, who moments later banked in a 3-pointer. Smith got a layin after another steal and Isaacs got inside for a lefty banker and it was tied at 16.
The Spartans scored 7 more points before the Knights finally dented the scoreboard, making it 23-16. CHS scored 12 more points in the quarter and limited Northeastern to one basket, taking a 35-20 lead at the halftime break.
Brown said it is “pick your poison” with Troy Smith, who launches most of his 3-pointers from well behind the arc while also being able to take it to the hoop easily with his quickness.
“We were going to let him have the deep 3 but we had to make sure to get a hand up on him,” Brown said.
Troy Smith finished with a game-high 23 points before fouling out with 3:15 to play. Robert Smith had 18 points and 7 rebounds for the Knights (18-4).
Brown lauded his seniors — Billups and Graves — and said he is extremely proud of the pair, as well as all of the Spartans. He said the team executed what the coaches wanted, particularly down the stretch.
“The last 4 minutes of the game, that’s all we wanted, a great shot or free throws,” he said. “There was no reason to take anything other than a great shot and most of the time we got one or we got to the free throw line.
“We’ve got good players who run our system,” he continued. “And they play for one another, they really do. And they do it on each side of the ball.”
Next up for the Spartans will be the winner of the Richmond-Greenfield-Central game in Class 4A Sectional 9 play at New Castle. That game will take place at 6 p.m. on Friday, March 4.
The sectional begins on Tuesday, March 1. Richmond (9-14) plays Greenfield Central (18-4) in the 1st game at 6 p.m., with Pendleton Heights (12-10) and New Castle (14-6) following at 7:30.
Friday’s 2nd semifinal game pits Mt. Vernon (Fortville) (17-3) against the winner of the Pendleton Heights-New Castle game.
Pendleton Heights defeated Class 4A No. 3 Indianapolis North Central, 61-60, in overtime Tuesday night.
Area / games of interest
Connersville 69, Northeastern 56
Richmond 68, East Central 43
Pendleton Heights 61, Indianapolis North Central 60 (OT)
Westfield 50, Mt. Vernon (Fortville) 37
Hagerstown 58, Tri 50
Wapahani 70, Centerville 45
Muncie Central 95, Frankton 82
Jac-Cen-Del 65, Madison 60
Hauser 71, Knightstown 61
South Adams 70, Winchester 46
Columbus North 48, Seymour 37
(Photos by Jeff Gabbard Photography)
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