LAFAYETTE — Crawfordsville prepped for a Sagamore showdown Friday with a trip north to take on Central Catholic, ranked No.3 in Class A in the state.
A 64-percent shooting effort by the Knights gave them the 64-56 win, and moves them to 15-2, but it took all that great shooting to hold off the visitors, who fall to 13-5 with a Friday matchup with Tri-West next on the calendar.
“I’m pretty pleased with our overall effort,” Crawfordsville coach David Pierce said. “We really stayed in the game mentally, and we had a couple places where that could have gotten away from us.”
One of those roadblocks was losing starting guard Karsten Williamson at halftime. The junior was heading for the rim when a collision tumbled him into the base of the stage at that end of the gym. An injured wrist kept him on the bench in the second half, but the Athenians coaches say he will be ready for Friday.
The Knights simply would not miss a shot.
Hitting nine of their first 10, they led by as many as 10 in the first quarter. They went on to shoot 64 percent from the floor, 13 percentage points better than their season average.
“We’ve been shooting well of late,” Central Catholic coach Dave Barrett said. “Tonight we had a couple guys come off the bench and really shoot well, and we were finding our open spots. We also went inside to our big guys. Crawfordsville is a good team that played well tonight.”
The Athenians stayed with the Knights, and kept the deficit in single digits for most of the second and third quarters. Two buckets to end the third made it 55-50.
Central Catholic got two free throws early in the fourth to make it 57-50 when Pierce slowed down the Crawfordsville offense.
“We went back to our shuffle,” Pierce said. “We were still in the game, and we were getting open by running it a few times. I told the guys we were going to make a run and get back at them.”
The coach was true to his prediction, as treys by Tray Scorza and Anthony Gonzalez made it 57-56 CC with 4:04 on the clock.
“We were back within one, and had the ball,” Pierce said. “Things had not been going well for us all game, but we were still right there.”
There was not one more rabbit to pull out of a hat, however, as turnovers on back-to-back possessions became five points for the Knights, and the offense sputtered.
“We got a lot more aggressive on defense those last four minutes,” Barrett said. “Our defensive intensity in the second half really helped us.”
The Athenians would not score in those last four minutes, as they missed their last six shots.
“We had too many unforced turnovers,” Pierce said, noting the 15 for the game and Central Catholic’s 17 points off. “We weathered nearly every storm, but those last four empty possessions hurt.”
The Athenians were led in scoring by Jesse Johnson-Hall with 15 points. The sophomore finished his double-double with a game-best 11 rebounds.
“He (Johnson-Hall) is really playing well,” Pierce said, “and he keeps getting better. His maturity improves every day, and that is because of our seniors, who work with him all the time.”
Also in double-digits for Crawfordsville was Gonzalez with 13 and Scorza with 12. Will Kellerman added 11, as the Athenians were 19-of-46 from the field, 9-of-25 from long range and 9-of-10 from the line.
The Knights were led by Carson Barrett with 17 points, followed by David Schwartz with 15. Clark Barrett had 12 and Nate Webb 11. Central Catholic was 27-of-42 from the field, 4-of-10 from deep and 6-of-10 from the line. They had 26 rebounds to Crawfordsville’s 21 and had 13 turnovers.
Both teams are unbeaten in their conferences and have huge games Friday.
The Knights have West Lafayette coming in and the Athenians, 5-0 in the Sagamore Conference, play host to the Bruins.
“Tonight was the warm-up,” Pierce said. “When we walked into the locker room after the game, every thought was turned to Tri-West and Friday. We are playing well, and they are a very good team.”
Crawfordsville won the JV game 58-52, running the Athenians record to 16-1. Four players got into double-figures, starting with Nate Schroeter with 14, Ian Hensley with 12, Ty Lynas with 11 and Alex Kellerman with 10.