When the pregame festivities in Spartan Bowl ended and the goosebumps from listening to 1972 Indiana Mr. Basketball Phil Cox’s rendition of the National Anthem had subsided, the Connersville players and their opponents from Pendleton Heights were ready to play basketball.
No one was more anxious to go than CHS point guard Garrett Silcott, who was all over the court in scoring 24 points, dishing 5 assists and playing harassing defense against any and all Arabians as Connersville (4-0) defeated PH, 41-39, in a game that came down to a last-second shot.
“We knew it would be a battle and it definitely was. This was a tough game,” said CHS head coach Kerry Brown. “I think we did a good job defensively which was the key, and Garrett had a great game.”
Things could have been much different. An old-fashioned 3-point play by Arabians’ forward Mark Albers gave PH a 38-37 lead with 3:58 remaining in the game.
With both teams utilizing a patient offensive attack throughout the battle, Silcott eventually slithered inside for a layin that gave Connersville a 39-38 advantage at the 2:35 mark.
The Spartans (4-0) got the ball back with guard Noah Belt drawing a foul with 1:01 to play. But the sophomore missed the front end of a 1-and-1 opportunity, and Pendleton Heights was able to tie it at 39 when Albers made 1 of 2 freebies.
Silcott got inside for a basket to give the Big Red a 41-39 lead with 24 seconds on the clock. The Arabians’ Estin Stull missed a 3-pointer with CHS senior Grant Smith hauling down one of his 7 rebounds, getting the ball to guard Dalton Lee who was fouled with 5.7 seconds left.
However, the junior missed both foul shots, with Pendleton Heights sophomore Eli Pancol grabbing his game-high 13th rebound. The ball ended up in Albers’ hands and the 6-4 senior launched a contested 3-pointer from the left side but it was off the mark as time expired.
“That was close,” a relieved Brown said. “If we make our free throws it wouldn’t have been that difficult, we have to make our foul shots. But that’s part of it. I’m pleased that we played well defensively and got the win.”
The Spartans started well. Smith drilled a 3 and scored inside, with Silcott getting the assist on both baskets. CHS opened a 7-2 advantage but Pendleton Heights led 12-10 after the first quarter.
Both teams struggled in the second quarter, with aggressive defensive play a big part of the reason. Connersville got a pair of 3-pointers from Beau Isaacs and a layup by Silcott after a steal for its only points of the period.
However, the Arabians managed just 5 points in the stanza and trailed, 18-17, at the midway break. CHS bolted to a 26-19 lead with 2:51 left in the third quarter, with Silcott scoring 7 points and Smith adding a long trey and free throw. Pendleton Heights chipped away, cutting the deficit to 29-25 entering the final quarter.
Isaacs hustled and banged his way to a team-high 10 rebounds for the Spartans. Two of Smith’s baskets were slams, one a breakaway with 5:47 remaining that gave Connersville a 35-32 lead. Silcott shot 8-of-11 from the floor and made 7-of-8 free throws.
Albers topped the Arabians with 18 points, Pancol finished with 12 and Karstan Windlan had 5. Pendleton Heights was without the services of sharpshooting guard Trent Miller, who missed the game due to injury.
“We did some good things and played excellent defense to get the win,” said Brown. “I’m really happy for the kids and I’m so happy we got the victory to give the ’72 team a win tonight from us. We felt like we would have let them down if we didn’t win so we’re glad we hung tough and pulled it out.”
Connersville will host South Dearborn (3-2) Wednesday (7:30 p.m.) in an Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference game. The Knights beat Franklin County, 59-52, Saturday night.
Connersville’s Jr. Spartans also improved to 4-0 by defeating the Arabians reserves, 32-27. Tyler Combs scored 10 points for CHS, Dylan Logan tallied 8, Drew Sherck and Clay Garrison scored 6 apiece and Ethan Smith had 2.
(Photos courtesy of Jeff Stanton ©)
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