It’s official. The Connersville Spartans and Mt. Vernon Marauders need more than 32 minutes to decide the winner of a basketball game between the two schools.
Connersville overcame a poor and cold-shooting first half to defeat Mt. Vernon, 59-55, in double overtime Tuesday night to win the opening game of Class 4A Sectional 9 at New Castle.
CHS (24-1) beat the Marauders in four overtimes during the regular season, 88-85.
Senior Grant Smith scored 31 points, grabbed 11 rebounds, dished 6 assists and blocked 5 shots to lead CHS, which fell behind 6-0 in the first quarter and trailed 33-23 at the half, primarily on the strength of 8 first-quarter points by MV’s James McCloud and 8 in the second stanza by Logan Smith.
On the down side for the Spartans, forward Beau Isaacs reinjured his left knee and had to be helped slowly off the court to the lockerroom.
The 6-4 senior was injured with 10.8 seconds left during a scramble for a looses ball that he tipped to point guard Garrett Silcott, who was fouled and made two free throws to give Connersville a 58-55 lead.
After grabbing the rebound of the Marauders’ last missed shot, CHS reserve Braxton Revalee sank a foul shot to establish the final margin.
Connersville head coach Kerry Brown said he is unsure how severe Isaacs’ injury is.
“I don’t know how bad it is and I don’t want to speculate,” said Brown. “He’s with our trainer now. We’ll find out more about him later but I don’t know the extent of his injury.”
Smith got inside for a bucket to cut Mt. Vernon’s lead to 13-11 to open the second period, but the Mauraders used high-percentage shooting to maintain control throughout the opening 16 minutes.
A change in defensive strategy at the break allowed the Big Red to hold the Marauders to just 2 points in the third quarter, which ended with MV on top, 35-33.
“I told the kids ‘the first half defense is on me.’ It was on me,” the coach said. “We changed some things and we came out in the second half and did what we wanted to do. We got some stops late when we needed them and we made some free throws when we had to.”
After Grant Smith hit Noah Belt with a nice pass that Belt converted into a layin to tie things at 46 with 1:16 left in regulation, the Marauders had a chance to take the lead when Cade Gentry was fouled.
But the sophomore missed both freebies. Smith snatched the rebound and brought the ball down the court, but his long 3-pointer bounced off the rim at the buzzer.
Both teams scored 4 points in the first overtime, with Smith blocking a shot by the Marauders’ leading scorer Michael Ertel in the waning seconds, and Silcott coming up with the rebound and launching a 60-foot shot that hit the backboard as the horn sounded.
Ertel opened the second extra session with a trey, 3 of his team-high 14 points. The Spartans’ Smith countered with an inside hoop, Silcott scored on a drive and was fouled, but he missed the free throw.
Smith slithered his way through the Marauders’ defense to score inside and draw a foul, but he missed his charity toss with 30.1 seconds to play.
Mt. Vernon worked the ball for a last second shot, and after a timeout with 13.5 seconds remaining, the Spartans’ defense forced the loose ball scramble which Isaacs was injured on.
Silcott backed Smith with 15 points and 5 rebounds, Isaacs scored 5 points, Hunter Sullenbarger had 3, Belt, who fouled out in the second overtime, scored 4 points and grabbed 5 boards and Revalee had 1 point.
Ertel topped Mt. Vernon with 14 points, Erick Shepherd had 13 points and 8 rebounds, McCloud finished with 12 points and Logan Smith scored 11.
Tuesday’s second game also took two overtimes to decide, with Greenfield-Central beating Pendleton Heights, 64-57.
CHS will play Richmond (2-22) in Friday’s first semifinal game at 6 p.m. Tournament host New Castle (16-6) and Greenfield-Central (12-11) will go at it in Game 2.
The Spartans beat Richmond, 54-49, during the regular season at Tiernan Center.
(Statistics are unofficial and will be updated).
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