The Connersville Spartans will face a weekend of double-duty action on the hardwood, and it likely is the most difficult back-to-back games the team has played so far.
CHS will hit the road twice, traveling to Hancock County tonight to clash with Mt. Vernon (Fortville) (7:30 p.m.), with the Spartans taking the floor in Bankers Life Fieldhouse Saturday to challenge Indianapolis Manual. That game begins at 5:30 p.m.
Mt. Vernon, a veteran team and possible Connersville opponent in Sectional 9, is 7-5. Manual, rated No. 10 in the Associated Press Class 3A poll, is 12-2. The Redskins host 2A No. 9 Indianapolis Howe tonight.
The Spartans, rated 16th last week in the AP 4A poll, dropped out of the ratings despite blasting 3A Batesville, 59-32, to win their 17th consecutive Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference game and improve to 15-1 overall (4-0 EIAC).
“We’ve got two tough games coming up. We’ll have to play well and do what we do best,” said Connersville head coach Kerry Brown. “We’re looking forward to a good weekend.”
Mt. Vernon beat CHS last season at Spartan Bowl, 44-38, and the Marauders’ key players return, including 6-6 senior Erick Shepherd who scored a game-high 16 points in that win, 6-1 senior guard Michael Ertel, who leads the Marauders in scoring this season at 21.6 points per game, and James McCloud, a rugged 6-5 junior.
Shepherd, a strong scorer inside who can hit from deep, averages 13.4 points and 7.3 rebounds.
McCloud averages 11.9 points and 6.4 rebounds, juniors Damari Gatewood and Logan Smith average 7.0 and 5.9 points, respectively, and both hit the boards hard.
“Mt. Vernon has so much talent, the starters and some of the guys who come off the bench,” said Brown. “We have to stop Ertel — we have to know where he is all the time.
“He and Shepherd both can get to the rim or hit from outside, they work together well and Shepherd is big and athletic. We’ll have our hands full but we’ve been working hard in practice.”
The Marauders lost to 4A No. 13 Hamilton Southeastern, 74-67, last Saturday on the road. MV had won 5 straight before that, beating:
• Shelbyville, 83-74;
• Marion, 72-60;
• New Castle, 65-63;
• Greenfield-Central, 69-42;
• and Rushville, 78-32.
A Jan. 14 game at Indianapolis Howe was postponed.
CHS made 26-of-47 shots (55.3 percent) in its easy win over Batesville, the total including a red-hot 23-of-33 2-point tries (69.6 percent).
“We got some great shots and we shot the ball really well,” Brown said. “We did a lot of good things in that game.”
Garrett Silcott and Dalton Huffman both shot 6-for-8, Grant Smith was 9-for-15, Gavin Wickes made his only field goal attempt and Dalton Lee shot 1-for-2. Beau Isaacs and Noah Belt never got untracked, Isaacs making 3-of-12 shots and Belt missing his only attempt.
Smith led Connersville with 22 points, Silcott had 13, Huffman 12, Isaacs had 7 points and 5 rebounds, Wickes and Lee each scored 2 points and Wes Smith made a free throw.
While looking back with thoughts of gaining a measure of revenge for last year’s loss could be expected, Brown says the team is focused on tonight’s game and what it could mean for the future.
“They beat us last year at the Bowl so it would be nice to win it for that, but they’re a potential sectional opponent so we want to win at their place. We want to show that we can beat them,” the coach said. “It would be a good win from a confidence standpoint and we definitely want to beat teams we could meet in the sectional.”
If you can’t make it to the game, 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.
Sagarin ratings: CHS: 83.34 overall, 69.68 strength-of-schedule (135th), No. 33 4A, No. 40 all schools.
Mt. Vernon: 82.72 overall, 77.57 strength-of-schedule (39th), No. 37 4A, No. 44 all schools.
Connersville statistics (15-1)
Grant Smith: 17.2 p, 9.9 r, 5.1 a, 1.8 st, 1.4 bks
Beau Isaacs: 11.9 p, 5.3 r, 1.3 a, 0.4 st
Garrett Silcott: 11.7 p, 4.1 a, 3.4 r, 1.2 st
Dalton Huffman: 4.9 p, 2.5 r, 0.6 st, 0.3 a
Noah Belt: 6.6 p, 1.6 r, 0.8 a, 0.4 st
Hunter Sullenbarger: 2.3 p, 1.1 r, 0.5 a
Braxton Revalee: 0.6 p, 0.7 r, 0.6 a
Dalton Lee: 1.3 p, 1.0 r, 0.4 a (15 gms)
Wes Smith: 1.1 p, 0.8 r, 0.4 a (12 gms)
Gavin Wickes: 1.7 p, 0.3 r (10 gms)
Area / of interest
Connersville (15-1) at Mt. Vernon (Fortville) (7-5)
Batesville (7-6) at North Decatur (4-10)
East Central (11-3) at Columbus East (5-8)
Lawrenceburg (10-4) at South Ripley (7-7)
Rushville (2-13, 0-4 EIAC) at South Dearborn (4-11, 0-3 EIAC) •
Pendleton Heights (12-3, 4A No. 18) at Greenfield-Central (6-8)
Richmond (0-17) at Harrison (West Lafayette) (8-6)
Carmel (12-2, 4A No. 3) at New Castle (11-2)
Hagerstown (13-3, 2A No. 10) at Union City (2-11) (6 p.m.) ‡
Northeastern (12-4, 2A No. 6) at Cambridge City Lincoln (10-3) ‡
Winchester (8-6) at Tri (5-9) ‡
Shelbyville (9-6) at Greenwood (8-7)
Indianapolis Tech (4-7) at Muncie Central (4-10) (8 p.m.)
(• = Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference)
(‡ = Tri-Eastern Conference)
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