The Connersville Spartans and New Castle Trojans will battle it out one more time in the 2015-16 boys basketball season.
And the stakes are high. The winner will advance to the Class 4A regional at Southport High School next week.
CHS (20-5) and New Castle (17-7) will play for the championship of Sectional 9 tonight at the New Castle Fieldhouse (7:30 p.m.).
Connersville defeated Greenfield-Central, 50-40, Friday night to earn a spot in the title game. The Trojans arrive thanks to an 85-76 victory over Mt. Vernon (Fortville).
The Spartans and New Castle met at the Fieldhouse on Jan. 19, with CHS prevailing over the hosts, 75-66.
Junior forward Grant Smith scored a career-high 33 points to lead Connersville, 13 in the 4th quarter as the Spartans overcame a 12-point 3rd quarter deficit to win.
The win was sweet for the Spartans and their fans, but head coach Kerry Brown cautions that a regular season victory means little during postseason play.
“It’s going to be a tough game like the first one was. I know we’ll have to play better defensively than we did that first game,” Brown said.
A team that can get its points inside or from the perimeter, the Trojans’ primary scoring threats are guards Andrew Garrett and David Froedge.
Garrett, a 5-10 senior, averages 18.5 points and 2.8 assists to lead the team. A 49-percent shooter from 3-point territory, Garrett drilled 5-of-7 treys and scored 27 points against the Spartans in January. A 6-1 junior, Froedge averages 11.5 points an outing. He had 12 points in the loss to CHS.
Mason Gillis, a 6-6 freshman, has been a positive force for the Trojans, averaging 10.3 points and 8.8 boards. Junior Titen Bennett uses his 6-5 frame to move around the court and average 11.0 points and 5.6 rebounds.
“They can score a lot of points and we expect they’ll come out firing away,” noted Brown. “Garrett is having a great tournament so we have to play strong defense and rebound the basketball.”
The coach expects the Trojans to apply full-court pressure and play different zone defenses against the Spartans. He said CHS has done a good job handling the ball against pressure defense, and he expects that to continue.
In Friday’s win, Beau Isaacs scored 21 points (14-of-16 free throws) to lead Connersville with Tyler Billups adding 15. Smith finished with 7, Garrett Silcott scored 6 and Graves added a free throw.
The Spartans are shooting 78.8 percent from the free throw line (362-for-459) and made 24-of-28 against Greenfield-Central. In the January win over New Castle, CHS was 18-of-22 from the charity stripe.
Brown said the team needs to run its offense, be aggressive and try to cash in from the foul line.
“We have to execute our game plan and get the tempo of the game the way we want it,” he said. “They’ll pressure us but if we take care of the ball and we get our shots, we’ve just got to knock them down, and we need to make our free throws.
“But,” he continued, “we’ve got to get (defensive) stops and rebound the basketball. We’ll find out how good our defense is, playing them on their floor. It won’t be easy but we like our team and we’ll be ready.”
(Photos by Doug Jordan Photography)
• Beau Isaacs: 11.9 p, 6.0 r, 1.0 a, 0.8 st
• Grant Smith: 11.6 p, 4.8 r, 3.0 a, 1.5 st, 1.0 bks
• Tyler Billups: 11.5 p, 3.3 r, 1.3 a, 1.0 st
• Garrett Silcott: 8.6 p, 3.4 a, 2.5 r, 1.3 st
• Chandler Graves: 2.6 p, 3.2 r, 1.0 a, 1.1 st
• Noah Belt: 2.9 p, 0.6 r
• Dalton Huffman: 1.5 p, 1.0 r
• Wes Smith: 0.9 p, 0.4 r
• Dalton Lee: 0.7 p, 0.3 r
• Gavin Wickes 0.5 p, 0.3 r
• Braxton Revalee 0.1 p, 0.1 r
• Hunter Sullenbarger 0.0 p, 0.2 a
Notes: In the win over New Castle on Jan. 19, Grant Smith got scoring support from Billups, who had 19 points and 6 rebounds, and Isaacs, who finished with 11 points and 6 boards. … The backcourt duo of Silcott and Graves scored 5 points each, with Graves also grabbing 5 rebounds. … Dalton Huffman added 2 points. … New Castle has lost just 2 home games, to the Spartans, and to Westfield, 48-42, on Feb. 19.
Area sectional championships
(All games 7:30 p.m.)
Class 4A Sectional 9 at New Castle
Connersville (20-5) vs New Castle (17-7)
Class 4A Sectional 14 at East Central
Bloomington South (20-4) vs Shelbyville (9-14)
Class 3A Sectional 29 at Greensburg
Greensburg (15-7) vs Madison (12-12)
Class 2A Sectional 41 at Hagerstown
Centerville (7-14) vs Northeastern (21-4)
Class A Sectional 60 at South Decatur
Southwestern (Shelby) (13-10) vs Jac-Cen-Del (19-6)
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