There was no question it was going to be a hard-fought battle in typical Hoosier Hysteria fashion. And that’s exactly what it was.
The Connersville Spartans recovered from a slow start and chipped away in the usual CHS style to defeat Greenfield-Central, 50-40, in Game 1 of the semifinals of Class 4A Sectional 9 action at New Castle Fieldhouse Friday night.
Coach Kerry Brown’s squad made 24-of-28 free throws (85.7 percent), 14-of-17 in the final quarter, to pick up the win and improve to 20-5.
The Spartans fell behind 10-2 but outscored the Cougars 17-9 to even the score at 19 at halftime. GC led 32-30 after three quarters but CHS held the Hancock County school scoreless during the 1st 6 minutes of the 4th quarter and opened a 42-32 advantage on 4 free throws by Beau Isaacs and a pair by Grant Smith.
After the Cougars closed the gap to 44-40, Tyler Billups made 4 charity tosses — 2 after GC was whistled for a technical foul for calling a time out the team did not have.
Smith put a Zach Lavine-type stamp on the win with a steal and rousing slam dunk just before the final buzzer.
“We were able to keep our composure and come up with a big win,” CHS head coach Kerry Brown told Kmix 106.9 game announcers Sam Harvey and Dave Pollard afterward. “It’s survive and advance and we’re going to play tomorrow night.”
The Spartans will play for the championship at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, taking on New Castle (16-7), which defeated Mt. Vernon (Fortville), 85-76, in Friday’s 2nd semifinal.
Isaacs — who made 14-of-16 free throw attempts — led Connersville with 21 points and 5 rebounds. Billups scored 15 points, making all 6 of his foul shots, Smith finished with 7 points and 5 assists, Garrett Silcott scored 6 points and Chandler Graves added a free throw, 5 rebounds and 2 assists.
Tate Hall topped GC with 13 points, Blake Robertson had 11 and Chandler Bean added 7.
Brown commended his team for hanging tough when it counted the most, and expressed gratitude to the large contingent of Spartans’ fans who made their presence known at the Fieldhouse.
“It was huge having the lead late. That was really big and we made our free throws,” he said. “And we had great support from our home fans and our students. It was great.”
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