The Connersville Spartans have had a goal since before the basketball season began — win consecutive Class 4A Sectional 9 championships.
The 25-1 Spartans have that chance tonight, but a formidable opponent stands in the way.
The New Castle Trojans will try to dethrone CHS when the teams go at it at 7:30 p.m. in New Castle Fieldhouse.
The Trojans, 17-6, defeated Greenfield-Central, 57-32, Friday night to make it to the championship game. Connersville earned its spot thanks to a 65-47 victory over Richmond.
The Spartans have won three straight against New Castle, including last year’s sectional championship game and a regular season contest on the Trojans’ home court.
“It’s going to be a battle. It will be a tough game,” CHS head coach Kerry Brown said. “We know we have to execute our game plan on both ends of the court and play as hard and as well as we can.”
The Spartans drubbed Richmond despite senior Beau Isaacs being sidelined due to a left knee injury.
Brown said Isaacs is a game-time decision as far as playing tonight. The 6-4 forward averages over 12 points and nearly 6 rebounds a game.
Utilizing the discipline and excellent teamwork that has been present all season, Connersville didn’t miss Isaacs too badly against the Red Devils.
Senior Grant Smith put all of his talents on display, scoring 24 points, grabbing 13 rebounds and skying to block 3 shots, a performance that solidifies his candidacy for a spot on the All-State team.
Garrett Silcott scored 15 points for CHS, Hunter Sullenbarger, who started in place of Issacs, made four 3-pointers for 12 points, Noah Belt had 9 points and 8 rebounds, Dalton Huffman had 4 points and Braxton Revalee made a free throw.
Brown was pleased that all of his players got playing time and all contributed something. An example of hard work and determination by the players is Belt, according to the coach.
“Noah hasn’t been shooting the ball well but he hasn’t let that get him down. He keeps playing hard and working hard every day in practice,” said Brown. “That’s a testament to him. That says a lot about Noah Belt.”
On Jan. 17, CHS beat New Castle, 52-51, in overtime at Spartan Bowl. Sophomore guard Luke Bumbalough scored 17 of his game-high 21 points in the first half to help the Trojans open a 27-18 lead.
Connersville rallied to send the game into overtime, and proceeded to score the first 7 points in the extra session. Missed free throws in the final minute almost cost CHS.
Grant Smith racked up 18 points, 15 rebounds and 9 assists, Isaacs scored 16 points and Silcott had 13.
Along with stopping Bumbalough (13.4 points per game), Connersville will have to play tough defense against 6-6 sophomore Mason Gillis (14.1 points, 10.2 rebounds), 6-0 senior David Froedge (13.3 points), 6-7 senior Titen Bennett (9.7 points) and 6-1 junior Niah Williamson (9.7 points).
“We know it’s going to take an excellent defensive effort and we’re going to do that,” said Brown. “It’s going to take a total team effort and we’re prepared for that.”
Sagarin ratings: CHS: 84.00 overall, 71.38 strength-of-schedule (115th), No. 30 4A, No. 35 all schools.
New Castle: 83.99 overall, 73.07 strength-of-schedule (101st), No. 31 4A, No. 36 all schools.
If you can’t make it to the game, you can listen to the action on Kmix 106.9 fm, featuring announcers Sam Harvey and Dave Pollard. Kmix 106.9 can be accessed via the iTunes media player.
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