Crawfordsville’s boys basketball team enters the IHSAA boys state tournament with only one thing on its mind. Win the sectional. The Athenians posted a 16-6 regular season record, won the county title, the Sagamore Conference, and a Sugar Creek Classic title. It was the best season wins wise for the Athenians since 1973-74 and their first conference title since 1987.
Goals one, two, and three are checked off the list, with only a sectional title standing in the way of having the best season in program history since the Athenians went all the way to the state finals in 1958. And it would be the Athenians first sectional title since 2014, and only the second since 1989. The only blemish on the entire season so far was a 71-63 loss at Danville, leaving a bitter taste in the Athenian’s mouth. “The Danville loss might be the best thing that’s happened to us, because the kids were so beat up over it,” Crawfordsville coach David Pierce said. “They wanted to win that game so bad, so they came back hungry, and a sour taste in their mouth. And now it’s like if we don’t win the sectional, it’s like there’s something left undone.” Crawfordsville owns a 7-1 record over the rest of the sectional field, with the only loss coming to Greencastle 67-55 in the season opener on Nov. 20. The Tiger Cubs are 18-4 on the season, and on the other side of the bracket, leaving them and the Athenians as the two favorites to play for the title. “We feel like we are somewhat of a favorite, which is a different place for us,” Pierce said. “We have always been an underdog, so it’s a different feeling for us.” First, the Athenians will have to beat Lebanon, as they play the Tigers at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, in the second quarterfinal matchup. Crawfordsville has won three straight games over the Tigers, including a 44-41 win at home on Nov. 30. “We are excited,” Pierce said about the matchup. “We feel like Lebanon is a different team. They are playing better, and are still struggling shooting from the field, and we feel like our defense will give them fits.” The Tigers enter the sectional 9-14, and are only averaging 46.4 points per game. However, Lebanon was 8-15 entering the sectional last year, and made it all the way to the regional final. “Teams with losing records are always dangerous in the sectional, because they have nothing to lose,” Pierce said. “We will never underestimate anyone we play in the sectional. We will treat Lebanon as the favorite, and us as the underdog and we’ve gotta go out and play really hard to beat them.” A total of three Athenians average at least 10 points per game, led by Jesse Johns-Hall at 15.5 points per game. Will Kellerman chips in 10.5, while Karsten Williamson adds 10.2. per contest. Michael Reese leads Lebanon with 11.5 points per game. The winner of Crawfordsville and Lebanon will play the winner of Southmont and Western Boone in the second semi-final game on Friday night at 7:30 p.m. On the other side of the bracket, Benton Central (16-7) plays Greencastle, while North Montgomery (5-17) awaits the winner. The Athenians defeated Benton Central 61-45 back in November, and own a pair of double-digit wins over the Chargers. Nitty Gritty Class 3A Sectional, First Round at Crawfordsville WHO: Crawfordsville (16-6) vs. Lebanon (9-14) WHEN/WHERE: Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. at Crawfordsville COACHES: David Pierce, 97-105 in 9th year at Crawfordsville. Albert Hendrix, 120-97 in 9th year at Lebanon. LAST MEETING: Crawfordsville won 44-41, Nov. 30, 2018. SERIES: Lebanon owns 25-9 record in series last 30 years. VS COMMON FOES: Crawfordsville 8-1; Lebanon 4-3. SCORING: The Athenians average 61.7 points per game, and give up 54.7 points per game. The Tigers average 46.4 points per game, and give up 50.9 points per game. LEADERS: Jesse Johnson-Hall leads Crawfordsville with 15.5 points per game. Michael Reese leas Lebanon with 11.5 points per game.