All-Star basketball games at any level are nearly always dominated by the guards on the court, and Friday’s boys game in the Hoosiers’ Reunion All-Star Classic was no exception.
However, a good time was had by all in Knightstown’s Historic Hoosier Gym, including Connersville graduate Grant Smith, despite the fact his Terhune Tigers team came up short on the scoreboard, losing to the ‘host’ Hickory Huskers, 152-130.
“I had a good time. It was really fun getting to play with these guys,” Smith said afterward.
“There was a lot of talent out here and it’s always fun to play with and against great competition.”
The 6-6 Smith — who will play against the best prep players from Kentucky next weekend as a member of the Indiana All-Star team — scored 11 points and snagged 7 rebounds — 6 off the offensive glass.
One offensive board that likely won the ‘Whoa! Play-of-the-Game’ award, was the same sheer-hustle play Connersville fans witnessed during the Spartans-Ben Davis regional championship contest at Southport Fieldhouse.
With 5:32 left to play, Smith raced toward the rim, grabbed the rebound of a missed shot by Warren Central’s Mack Smith and threw down a reverse dunk that was as smooth as silk.
“That was fun,” he said with a smile. “I know sometimes there’s not a lot of defense played in All-Star games so I was trying to get a lot of rebounds and do other things to help my team.
“I knew if I rebounded the ball I could get it and go so I tried to get as many rebounds as I could.”
Three players that Smith and head coach Kerry Brown’s Spartans squared off against many times in the past three years were key to the Hickory team’s win.
Michael Ertel, a smooth, deadly-shooting 6-2 guard from Mt. Vernon (Fortville) who will play at Louisiana-Monroe, scored 23 points.
Northeastern High School graduate Tyler Smith used his quickness and excellent shooting ability to tally 18 points, and the 6-1 guard who’s headed for Florida Southern scored the game’s last basket with a resounding two-hand jam at the buzzer.
“This was fun, a good experience,” Tyler Smith said. “I really enjoyed it.”
New Castle sharpshooter David Froedge banged five 3-pointers and also scored 18 points. Froedge will attend Don Bosco Prep school.
Hunter Ferris, a 6-5 Cambridge City Lincoln graduate who will attend IU-East, added 2 points and 3 rebounds for the winners.
Terhune won the girls game, defeating Hickory, 87-75.
Now, Grant Smith is looking foward to a pair of Junior-Senior exhibition games — the first at New Albany on June 6, the second on June 8 at Plainfield — and then the annual Indiana-Kentucky All-Star series.
Game 1 is Saturday, June 10 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The girls game starts at 5 p.m. with the boys game beginning at 7:15 p.m.
Game 2 will be played on June 11 at the Frankfort Civic Center. The girls get things started at 1 p.m. with the boys game scheduled to tip-off at 3:15 p.m.
Kerry Brown will serve as an assistant coach to head coach Marty Beasley of Fort Wayne Carroll.
“Playing with the best talent from around the state has been unbelievable, an experience I’ll never forget,” said Smith. “I’m really looking forward to playing against Kentucky.”
Notes: During a halftime chat with Indianapolis mayor Joe Hogsett, the Rushville native fondly recalled high school basketball from the past, including Connersville’s 1972 boys state championship team. “We had the distinction of losing to them not once, not twice but three times that season,” he said, adding that he recently saw and spoke with former Spartans’ star and 1972 Mr. Basketball Phil Cox.
Hogsett, who graduated from RCHS in 1974, also remembers being one of the many people who stood along the sides of various roadways as the Spartans’ team bus and caravan of fans made their way back to Connersville from Bloomington. “They were our rivals but we were happy for them,” he said.
He also said he knows the recent success of the Spartans’ boys hoops team and Grant Smith’s accomplishments have been positives for a community that needs as many positives as possible.
“He’s a really good player. I’m happy for him and for what all of this has meant for Connersville.”
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