LINDEN — There are two sides to knowing your sectional opponent. Some might say you don’t want to know too much, others might say it makes it easier to game plan.
North Montgomery doesn’t have a choice as they enter the 2019 IHSAA boys basketball state tournament under first-year coach Andrew Evertts. The Chargers (5-17) received the bye in Sectional No. 25 at Crawfordsville and will play the winner of Benton Central and Greencastle on Friday at 6 p.m in the semi-final. While the Bison (16-7) and Tiger Cubs (18-4) have two of the three best records in the sectional, North Montgomery has played them both in recent weeks. Greencastle beat the Chargers 58-43 last Friday, while Benton Central handed them a 67-59 overtime loss on Feb. 2. Expecting Greencastle to beat Benton Central, Evertts says the Chargers will work on fixing mistakes from Friday’s game early in the week, before finding out the Greencastle/Benton Central winner on Tuesday night. “We will share film with our guys on both teams before Tuesday,” he said. “And then prep hard for either BC or Greencastle Wednesday and Thursday. Having played both teams recently, two days will be enough to fine-tune our game plan.” North Montgomery has shown marked improvement on both ends of the floor throughout the season. The Chargers didn’t win a game until Dec. 18 when they beat Sheridan 27-24. In the second half of the season, they strung together three wins in a four game stretch, beating Western Boone, Attica, and Frankfort. Evertts has seen the improvement, especially in the last two months. “Our guys have improved tremendously on both ends of the floor throughout the season,” he said. “We have been very solid defensively in holding 11 opponents under 50 points. Offensively we have started picking things up the last half of the season. Our guys have been a lot more aggressive in attacking the rim, which has translated to some higher scores.” Of those 11 games holding opponents under 50 points, eight have come since Christmas, and in all five wins they have held the losing team to less than 50. North Montgomery enters the sectional averaging 43.2 points per game, while giving up 53, but since Christmas, in 14 games, the Chargers are averaging 46.9 points per game, and are giving up 54 points an outing. “We have much better composure now than what we did early in the season,” Evertts said. “We gave up some pretty big runs early on in the year, now we are able to minimize runs and respond a lot more quickly before games get out of hand.” No matter who the Chargers play in Friday’s semi-final, they will have a tough road to win a sectional title. Not only do Benton Central and Greencastle have a combined record of 34-11, but the Chargers are 1-5 against the four teams on the other side of the bracket. That’s why they play the games though, and Evertts is confident that North Montgomery is on the verge of doing something special. “I think we have a great opportunity to do something special next week,” he said. “One win, and we are in the sectional championship. Anything can happen if we get there. Regardless of what happens, we are excited for the future. Winning a sectional championship could really jump start things and make our guys expect success next season, not hope for it.” Nitty Gritty Class 3A Sectional, First Round at Crawfordsville WHO: North Montgomery (5-17) vs. Benton Central (16-7) or Greencastle (18-4). WHEN/WHERE: Friday 6 p.m. at Crawfordsville. COACHES: Andrew Evertts, 5-17 in 1st year at North Montgomery, 67-94 in 7th year overall. Bryce Rector, 43-27 in 3rd year at Greencastle. Jordan Myers, 24-23 in 2nd year at Benton Central. LAST MEETING: Greencastle defeated NM 58-43, Feb. 22. Benton Central defeated NM 67-59, Feb. 2. SCORING: The Chargers average 43.2 points per game, and give up 53 points per game. The Bison average 51.7 points per game, and give up 47.9 points per game. The Tiger Cubs average 56.8 points per game, and give up 48.4 points per game. LEADERS: Preston Shaw leads North Montgomery with 8.5 points per game. Payton Hall leads Benton Central with 17.8 points per game. Brody Whitaker leads Greencastle with 19.6 points per game.