During the regular season, the Connersville Spartans beat all five opponents who help comprise the field in Sectional 9 boys basketball play.
If CHS once again beats three of those schools over the next week, it will mean consecutive sectional championships and trips to regional action at Southport Fieldhouse.
When the Spartans and Mt. Vernon (Fortville) get the 107th IHSAA boys tournament started Tuesday at New Castle Fieldhouse (6 p.m.), many fans would like to see the teams provide an encore performance of their Jan. 27 battle on the Marauders’ home court.
A month ago, Connersville outlasted Mt. Vernon, 88-85, in a donnybrook that took four overtimes to decide. Head coach Kerry Brown’s team made the most of its trips to the free throw line late in the game.
CHS made 34-of-46 foul shots (74 percent), with Noah Belt knocking down 13-of-14 and Grant Smith making 13-of-15 in the latter stages. Smith scored 27 points, Belt scored 23.
Pendleton Heights was the first potential opponent in Sectional 9 to fall to the Big Red. On Dec. 10 — the Saturday night when former coach Myron Dickerson and several members of Connersville’s 1972 state championship team were honored before the game on the Spartan Bowl floor — CHS defeated the Arabians, 41-39.
A week later, Connersville did something that likely is near the top of the list of all Spartans’ fans: the Big Red beat Richmond in Tiernan Center. CHS made the short venture into Wayne County and returned with a 54-49 victory.
On Dec. 20, a cold Tuesday night, the Spartans traveled to Hancock County to challenge the Cougars of Greenfield-Central. The trip home was a pleasant ride for the players and coaches, thanks to a 44-37 triumph.
It was nearly a month later, on Jan. 17, when longtime rival and Sectional 9 host New Castle made its way to Spartan Bowl for a much-anticipated matchup.
The teams didn’t disappoint anyone with their effort, hustle and desire, with Connersville defeating the Trojans, 52-51 in overtime.
The circumstances are totally different now, the one-and-done factor — one loss, see ya’ next season — is in full effect with pressure on every team and coaching staff.
Sectional 9 at New Castle is considered one of the best, most-competitive first-round series in the state. Rightfully so.
Notes: Tickets for Sectional 9 are available. Call the Connersville High School Athletic Department — 825-2900 — Monday morning for more information.
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