The shooting percentage for both teams was nearly as cold as the winter weather in the first half, and the overall play during the first 16 minutes won’t be featured on any highlight reels.
And then, the third quarter began.
After falling behind 15-10 early in the third, Connersville outscored East Central, 14-3, the rest of the period and made the lead stick, defeating the Trojans, 44-36, at Spartan Bowl.
The No. 13 Spartans improve to 19-1 overall, 5-0 in Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference play. Connersville has won 11 consecutive regular season games and 18 straight conference contests. East Central is 12-7 overall, 2-2 in the EIAC.
Senior Grant Smith, who led CHS with 16 points, hit the alarm clock’s wake-up button for the Big Red in the third stanza. Smith converted lob passes from Dalton Lee and Garrett Silcott into dunks that — combined with three layins by Smith, two by Beau Isaacs, and a pair of free throws by Noah Belt — helped the winners open a 24-18 advantage.
The stubborn and patient Trojans, led by Brady Ewing and Jared Volpenhein, would not fold despite the fact Connersville turned up the heat defensively.
EC trailed, 28-20, but got a nice inside hoop from Ewing and a pair of baskets by Cole Spencer to narrow the gap to 28-24.
With Silcott making all 8 of his foul shots in the final quarter, Belt scoring all 8 of his points in the frame and Smith getting away for a layup off a full-court pass on an inbounds play, head coach Kerry Brown’s team maintained an 8-point lead.
However, East Central made it close, getting consecutive 3-pointers from Ewing and Spencer to cut the deficit to 40-36 with less than 30 seconds to play.
A pair of free throws by Silcott and a steal and layup by Belt established the final margin.
“We knew it would be a difficult game and it was,” said Brown. “We wanted to defend home court and remain unbeaten in the conference and we did. The kids played hard and got the win.”
Silcott’s 10 points all came from the foul line and the junior, still recovering from a mouth injury sustained against Centerville, shot a perfect 10-for-10. He also had 4 assists.
Isaacs finished with 6 points and 4 rebounds and Dalton Huffman scored 4 points. Along with his team-high point total, Smith had 8 rebounds and 4 assists. Belt grabbed 3 rebounds and Lee finished with 3 steals and 2 boards.
Ewing had 16 points and 7 rebounds to lead East Central, Spencer scored 11 points, 9 in the fourth quarter. Tyler Koelling did not play due to injury.
The Jr. Spartans defeated the Trojans’ JV, 47-40.
The Spartans host New Palestine at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. The Dragons (4-13) play at Shelbyville Friday night.
Batesville 37, Rushville 34
Lawrenceburg 68, Madison 52
Greenfield-Central 47, Knightstown 42
(Stats are unofficial and will be updated)
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