The outcome was never in doubt.
Well, things did get more than a little shaky in the game’s final quarter, but the Connersville Spartans prevailed, defeating Lawrenceburg, 62-55, to win the school’s third consecutive Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference championship and improve to 22-1.
Senior substitute Hunter Sullenbarger got to start in his final game at Spartan Bowl and the 6-3 forward made the most of it, making seven 3-pointers in nine tries to finish with a career-high 21 points.
Five of Sullenbarger’s treys came in the first half, three in the first four mnutes of the first quarter which helped CHS open a 20-6 advantage.
“Did he bring it tonight or what?” Connersville head coach Kerry Brown said as his team celebrated its excellent accomplishment — which also is the 200th win in Brown’s 16-year coaching career.
“What a boost he gave us tonight. This was something we thought he could do because he really works hard.”
The Spartans — winners of 14 consecutive regular season games and 20 straight conference contests since December 2014 — turned a 30-15 halftime lead into a 48-28 advantage entering the final 8 minutes.
But suddenly, diminutive guard Curtis White stepped up his game big-time. A thorn in the Spartans’ side all night, the smooth 5-9 junior scored 24 of his game-high 35 points in the second half, 16 in the the fourth quarter.
White’s trio of 3-pointers and some Isaiah Thomas-like moves under the hoop resulted in buckets that helped the Tigers trim the margin to 51-44 with about 3 minutes to play, and 56-50 with 54.8 seconds remaining.
Sullenbarger helped stem the tide with a 3-pointer midway through the quarter, senior Beau Isaacs made 4 free throws in the final 36.1 seconds and senior Grant Smith got free for a basket with 25 ticks on the clock to ensure the win.
Junior Garrett Silcott also scored a key hoop with about a minute to play, after Smith blocked a shot by White and the Big Red recovered the ball.
“It’s a great win. The kids made enough plays at the end to get the victory,” noted Brown. “I’m really proud of our guys. They’ve put in a lot of work and to win the EIAC three times in a row is pretty impressive. They’re very deserving of their accomplishments.”
Smith finished with 16 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists. Isaacs had 13 points and 6 boards, senior Dalton Huffman scored 6 points and grabbed 4 rebounds, Silcott scored 4 points and Noah Belt had 2.
Senior Gavin Wickes also got a starting nod in his final game at the Bowl and pulled down 3 rebounds. Everyone on the roster played, with Dalton Lee, Wes Smith and Braxton Revalee each grabbing rebounds but failing to dent the scoring column.
The Spartans final game of the regular season is Tuesday night at Northeastern (7:30 p.m.). The talented Knights are 18-4 and rated 5th in the Associated Press Class 2A poll.
Notes: The tournament pairings show for the 107th Annual IHSAA boys basketball state tournament will take place at 5 p.m. today. The show will be broadcast on Fox Sports Indiana and will be webstreamed on IHSAATV.org.
(Statistics are unofficial and will be updated).
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