The 2016-17 Connersville Spartans. (Photo by Jeff Gabbard)
The Connersville Spartans displayed mental toughness and grit last week at Shelbyville, hanging strong in the final minutes of regulation and overtime to come away with a 59-57 victory.
CHS will need similar toughness and a lot of defense Saturday night at Spartan Bowl when it hosts Pendleton Heights, a team capable of exploding offensively with weapons at every position.
The game begins at 7:30 p.m. Prior to the tip-off, Connersville’s 1972 state championship team will be honored.
Coach Kerry Brown’s Spartans enter Saturday’s game unbeaten at 3-0. Despite last week’s win, CHS — which was tied with Pendleton Heights for 22nd place in the Associated Press poll — somehow dropped out of the rankings.
PH also fell out of this week’s AP poll, the drop being the result of a crushing 75-32 loss to No. 6 Carmel Saturday night on the Arabians’ home court.
Rated or not, Brown said the Spartans will have to be on top of their game to defeat a possible sectional opponent.
“I was really pleased with the way we stayed together and came away with a tough win at Shelbyville, and we’ll have to play that way again,” said Brown. “It’s a typical Pendleton Heights team, which means this is a very talented team that can put points on the scoreboard and will play hard all game. We’ll have to play really well to get a win.”
Prior to losing to Carmel, the Arabians (3-0) beat defending Class 2A state champion Lapel (2-1), 53-50, in a road game. PH made nine 3-pointers, with 6-3 senior guard Trent Miller nailing 5-of-10 3s en route to 17 points. Miller averages a team-leading 16.7 points per game.
Sophomore point guard Karsten Windlan made a trio of treys and also scored 17 points against the Bulldogs. Senior Mark Albers does a little bit of everything for the Arabians and averages 11.0 points a game, despite making just one shot against Lapel and missing all 10 of his 3-point tries.
Eli Pancol, a 6-4 sophomore, scored 16 points against Lapel, making 7-of-9 shots. He also grabbed 6 rebounds.
The Spartans, according to their coach, must play defense as well and as physically as possible against everyone who hits the court for the Arabians.
“Miller might be their best shooter but Albers made the most 3-pointers in the state last season,” noted Brown. “Windlan is an excellent shooter — he has range up to 27 feet — and he’s a very crafty playmaker. He can really get the ball around to his teammates.
“And,” he added, “Pancol is probably their most improved player and he’s a phenomenal athlete. They probably have more weapons now than in the past and they have four kids who are legitimate players who can score the ball.”
Brown expects a balanced attack offensively by CHS, similar to last week’s effort at Shelbyville. Forward Grant Smith led the way with 20 points and 9 rebounds, point guard Garrett Silcott scored 15 points and passed for 6 assists, forward Beau Isaacs scored 15 points and snagged 5 boards and center Dalton Huffman scored 8 points and pulled down 3 caroms.
The Spartans hope to get off to a better start against PH than last season. The Arabians jumped to 13-3 lead and won, 45-35, with missed free throws and opportunities inside that were squandered hurting the Big Red badly.
“Pendleton Heights is a very talented team so we’ll have to play as well as possible to win,” Brown said. “Our starters have to play well and we’ve gotten good production from several players off the bench and we need that, too.
“We have to be aggressive and recognize what the defense is giving us and take advantage of it. We just have to do what we do on both ends of the court — and do it even better.”
If you can’t make it to the Bowl, you can listen to the action on Kmix 106.9 fm featuring announcers Sam Harvey and Dave Pollard. Kmix 106.9 can be accessed via the iTunes media player.
Connersville statistics (3-0)
Grant Smith: 18 p, 6.7 r, 2.3 a, 1.7 bks, 1.3 st
Garrett Silcott: 9.7 p, 6.7 a, 3 r, 2.3 st
Beau Isaacs: 8 p, 5.3 r, 1 st, 0.7 a
Dalton Huffman: 6 p, 1.7 r. 0.7 bks, 0.3 st
Noah Belt: 4.7 p, 1.3 r, 0.7 a, 0.3 st, 0.3 bks
Hunter Sullenbarger: 3.7 p, 2.3 r, 0.7 a
Gavin Wickes: 2.5 p, 0.5 r (2 gms)
Dalton Lee: 2 p, 1.7 r, 0.7 a, 0.3 st
Wes Smith: 1.3 p, 1.3 r, 0.3 st
Braxton Revalee: 0.7 p, 1.3 r, 1.3 a, 0.7 st
Connersville area / games of interest
Pendleton Heights (3-1) at Mount Vernon (Fortville) (2-2) ‡‡
Shelbyville (2-2) at New Castle (4-0) ‡‡
Greensburg (2-1) at East Central (2-0)
Lawrenceburg (1-0) at Batesville (2-0)
Madison (1-2) at South Dearborn (2-1)
Rushville (0-3) at Franklin County (1-0)
Centerville (2-2) at Randolph Southern (2-2)
Eastern Hancock (2-2) at Northeastern (3-0)
Knightstown (0-4) at Cambridge City Lincoln (4-0)
Tri (2-1) at Shenandoah (4-0)
Union County (2-1) at Hagerstown (3-0)
Winchester (2-1) at Union City (0-4)
Marion (1-2) at Richmond (1-3) (8 p.m.) ‡
Muncie Central (1-1) at Logansport (2-0) ‡
McCutcheon (3-1) at Kokomo (3-0) ‡
New Palestine (1-2) at Greenfield-Central (1-2)
‡‡ = Hoosier Heritage Conference
‡ = North Central Conference
(All games begin at 7:30 p.m. unless noted)
Connersville area / games of interest
Pendleton Heights (3-1) at Connersville (3-0)
Cambridge City Lincoln at Indiana Math & Science (3-1) (2:30 p.m.)
Franklin County at South Dearborn
Plainfield at Batesville
Rushville at Blue River
Tri at Union (Modoc)
Guerin Catholic at Muncie Central
Castle (1-0) at Mt. Vernon (Fortville, 2-2) (12 p.m., Southport Fieldhouse)
Lapel (3-1, 2A No. 2) vs New Castle (4-0) (12 p.m., Bankers Life Fieldhouse)
Monday, Dec. 5
Hauser at Greensburg
Tuesday, Dec. 6
East Central at Switzerland County
Mr. Pizza, Cambridge City
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