Cue the banner makers. Crawfordsville’s boys basketball team ended a 32-year drought by clinching at least a share of the Sagamore Conference basketball championship with a 65-51 win over Tri-West.
Without a conference title since the spring of 1987, the Athenians used tough defense and incredible free throw shooting to stay unbeaten in the Sagamore at 6-0 and run their overall record to 14-5. They can clinch the second outright championship in school Sagamore history with a win next Friday at Danville, but there is no taking away the “Conference Champs” title. “Tonight is a testament to not only the guys on this team, but to the guys who came before them,” Athenians coach David Pierce said. “The 2014 team turned the program around, and two years later those guys showed us how to win. This group is more special, and very different. They bought into ‘Team” from the first day. It’s all about the team. They have a lot of fun together, they do so many things together. They come from such special families. They have put in the extra hard work - the time and effort in the off season, to make them champions tonight.” The game was back and forth the first 22 minutes. Crawfordsville led 16-10 at the end of one, but the Bruins got it back to within two (25-23) at the half. The two teams swapped leads eight times in the first minutes of the third period, but a 13-0 run by the Athenians broke the game open and they never trailed again. Six points in that run, and 21 total points in the second half, came from the line, as the home squad used home court to the fullest. “We wanted to be aggressive on offense,” Pierce said. “We knew that would get us to the line. All those made free throws shows that a lot of work pays off.” The Athenians hit their first 13 charity tosses, and finished 23-of-27 for the game. Defense was the story on the other end of the floor. “We had to switch on the screens,” Pierce said of the defensive game plan. “We had to keep them in front of us all the time. I told the guys if we can keep Tri-West under 50, we will win, and except for the last-second turnover, it would have been under 50.” “Our defense was awesome,” junior guard Karsten Williamson said. “We knew we couldn’t get beaten off the ball. This is such an awesome feeling. I’ve never beaten Tri-West in anything, and to get a conference championship is incredible.” Williamson had three steals defensively, but did his share on offense, leading the Athenians with 20 points. He was 5-of-7 from the field and 8-of-10 from the line. This after missing the second half of the Tuesday game at Central Catholic with a hand injury. “They (Tri-West) couldn’t stay in front of KW,” Pierce said of the quick guard. “He hit the first shot for a three and that just got us going.” Turning in nearly a perfect night was senior forward Cam Saunders. He was 6-of-6 from the field, 5-of-5 from the line, had three steals and six rebounds. “It’s incredible,” Saunders said. “I sat in the corner of this gym in fifth grade dreaming about a night like this and a game like this. Dreams do come true.” The senior got some extra love from his coach. “Cam has been sick the last two-plus weeks,” Pierce said. “He was phenomenal tonight. The senior really stepped up.” Also in double figures for Crawfordsville was Tray Scorza and Jesse Johnson-Hall with 10 each. Scorza had six rebounds to go with two assists and two steals, while Johnson-Hall was game-best with nine rebounds and two blocked shots. For the game, the Athenians were 18-of-39 from the field and 6-of-14 from deep to go with all those free throws. They won the rebound battle 32-19 and had 17 points off 13 Bruins turnovers. “Scorza hit some really big free throws in the fourth quarter,” Pierce said of the junior, “and Johnson-Hall really adjusted well in the second half. He had been getting pushed around and out of the paint. Will Kellerman also showed how big a senior leader he is. He came out because of foul trouble and we were playing well. He told me that it didn’t matter if he played as long as we won the game. That speaks volumes about him.” Tri-West, who falls to 8-9 on the season and 4-1 in the conference, was led by Taylor Gardner with 14 points. Brayden Van Slyke, the only senior on the team, had a dozen, while Dawson Wolfe and Mason Loviscek each had 10. The Bruins were 20-of-42 from the field, 5-of-14 from long range and 6-of-10 from the line. They forced 11 Crawfordsville turnovers. “My dad got one conference championship at Western Boone,” Pierce said, “so I know how special this is. It takes a little luck, but it also takes a lot of work. Our motto has been “Earn Everything’ and tonight we earned a conference championship. I’m excited for the program. So many things have happened that are positive. We set four goals at the start of the season, to win the county, and the Sugar Creek Classic and the Sagamore Conference. The fourth is the sectional.” The Athenians can take the outright title at Danville next Friday. Crawfordsville has one outright Sagamore championship, in 1972-73, when they went 5-0. They have shared titles in ‘68, ‘75 and ‘87. In ‘68 they shared the title with Carmel. In ‘75 it was with Frankfort and Lebanon, and in ‘87 it was with Lebanon. They are the first Sagamore champs from Montgomery County since North Montgomery won a share of the title in ‘09. The Chargers also had outright championships in ‘06 and in ‘07. The Athenians have a makeup game at home on Tuesday against Clinton Prairie before the Danville game. The Bruins, who can still get a share of the title with a Crawfordsville loss and two wins, have games at Southmont and North Montgomery next Tuesday and Friday. CRAWFORDSVILLE 65 TRI-WEST 51 TRI-WEST 10 13 18 10 - 51 CRAWFORDSVILLE 16 9 21 19 - 65 Crawfordsville (14-5, 5-0): Williamson 5-7 8-10 20, Scorza 2-9 5-6 10, Kellerman 1-4 0-0 3, Saunders 6-6 5-5 17, Johnson-Hall 3-8 3-4 10, Gonzalez 1-5 2-2 5. Totals 18-39 23-27 65 Tri-West (8-9, 4-1): Gardner 6-13 0-0 14, Wolfe 3-4 4-6 10, Robertson 1-3 0-0 2, Loviscek 4-10 0-0 10, Van Slyke 6-9 0-0 12, Covey 0-3 3-4 3, Cora 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-42 6-10 51. 3-Point Shooting: Crawfordsville 6-14 (Williamson 2-3, Scorza 1-4, Kellerman 1-2, Gonzalez 1-2, Johnson-Hall 1-3; Tri-West 5-14 (Gardner 2-6, Wolfe 1-1, Loviscek 2-6, VanSlyke 0-1). Rebounding: Crawfordsville 32 (Johnson-Hall 9, Saunders 6); Tri-West 19 (Wolfe 4, VanSlyke 4). Turnovers: Crawfordsville 11, Tri-West 13