From a 63-29 win over Union County to open the campaign, to a 63-56 overtime victory over Northestern Tuesday night, the regular season is history for the Connersville Spartans.
With just one blip in the nearly 3-month journey that has resulted in CHS hoops history.
The 13th-rated Spartans closed the book on the most successful regular season in school history, improving to 23-1 with the win over the Knights — and the 107th IHSAA boys tournament less than a week away.
Grant Smith scored 22 points and snagged 13 rebounds to lead Connersville, whose only loss is to Portage.
CHS fell to the Indians, 69-56, on Dec. 27 in the Bob Wettig Tournament in Richmond. It was Connersville’s second game that day.
That morning, the Spartans beat Class A No. 3 Indianapolis Tindley, 71-63.
Tuesday night, CHS made 9-of-11 free throws in the fourth quarter and overtime to hold off Northeastern. The loss snapped a 7-game winning streak by the Knights (18-5), the No. 4 team in Class 2A.
“What a game. This is a good win on the road against a good team,” CHS head coach Kerry Brown said afterward.
The Big Red led 15-14 after the first quarter, but Northeastern got 9 straight points from guard Tyler Smith and two baskets by Freeman Brou to forge a 24-17 lead.
Grant Smith grabbed an offensive rebound and nailed a baseline jumper while falling down to cut the Knights’ lead to 26-25 at halftime.
The Spartans outscored the hosts, 17-10, in a wild third period that ended with Grant Smith making three foul shots after drawing a foul on, and push from, Troy Smith, and the ejection of a Knights’ fan who didn’t agree with the game’s officiating.
Prior to that, Grant Smith turned a steal into a two-hand slam that energized the Spartans and their boisterous fans.
Center Dalton Huffman was big for Connersville in the third stanza, scoring 4 of his 12 points and garnering 5 rebounds. Smith and Beau Isaacs both scored 5 points in the frame and Hunter Sullenbarger added a 3-pointer.
A trey by Sullenbarger put the Spartans up, 48-40, with under 5 minutes to play in regulation, and back-to-back buckets by Garrett Silcott made it 54-48 with 2:02 on the clock.
But Silcott missed a free throw after his second basket, Northeastern eventually tied it at 54, but the Knights dodged a bullet when a shot by Grant Smith fell off the rim as the horn sounded.
Grant Smith opened the extra session with a nice move and basket, and the Spartans got 4 free throws by Huffman in the final 41 seconds and a pair by Noah Belt with 11 ticks remaining to win it.
Tyler Smith, who led Northeastern with 22 points and 7 rebounds, scored the Knights’ only points of the overtime — a pair of free throws.
Isaacs finished with 14 points and 6 rebounds for the Spartans, Silcott scored 7 points, 7 assists and 4 assists, Sullenbarger had 6 points and Belt tallied 2 points and pulled down 4 boards.
Nate Reynolds scored 16 points for Northeastern, Brou had 8.
Connersville, the defending champion of Class 4A Sectional 9, plays Mt. Vernon (Fortville) in the tournament’s opening game on Tuesday, Feb. 28 at New Castle Fieldhouse (6 p.m.). The Marauders (13-8 ) host Yorktown Friday to conclude their regular season.
In the only other Connersville-area game Tuesday night, Franklin County (11-11, 3-4 EIAC) blasted host South Dearborn, 53-28, in an Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference game. South Dearborn is 5-17, 1-6 EIAC.
(Statistics are unofficial and will be updated).
Please Patronize Locally-Owned Businesses In Connersville!