NEW MARKET — When you have a young and inexperienced team like Southmont had entering this season, your ability and chemistry can be totally different from game one of the regular season in November to the IHSAA boys basketball tournament at the end of February. That’s what Mounties’ coach Jake Turner is hoping for as Southmont opens sectional play at Crawfordsville against Western Boone on Wednesday night at 6 p.m.
“As the year has gone along, our offensive execution has gotten better and we’ve done a better job of taking care of the ball,” he said. “Also, for the most part, our rebounding has improved. But the main thing is that all of our individuals have improved. We had little to no experience to start the year, but now all of these guys have played a full year of varsity basketball and know what to expect.” Justin Howard was the only returning starter from the 2017-18 team, and missed the first four games of the season, watching the Mounties start 0-4. The senior has proved his worth, averaging 17.8 points per game, but it’s been the emergence of Cole Roach (8.2 points per game), and sophomore Austin Bowman (6.3 points per game) that has led to Southmont’s capability to compete as the season has progressed. The signs of improvement can’t always be measured by wins and losses as the Mounties enter Wednesday with a 4-18 record, but did pick up Sagamore Conference wins over Frankfort, Lebanon, and North Montgomery. In the regular season, Southmont and Western Boone met twice. The Stars won 48-44 at Southmont on Dec. 14, and again 59-40 at Crawfordsville during the Sugar Creek Classic on Jan. 4. Howard led a late comeback that came up just short in the first meeting, while the Mounties surrerended a first half lead in the second meeting at the Sugar Creek Classic. Turner knows the Mounties will have to clean up their game on the offensive end if they want a chance against Western Boone. “We know they are a tough, physical team that is experienced and plays hard,” he said. “They do a great job on the defensive end, so we will need to do a better job of taking care of the ball and avoiding unforced turnovers so that we can get a great shot every trip.” Southmont only averages 41.8 points per game, while Western Boone averages 55.7. The Stars enter the sectional at 11-11 and on a three-game win streak. Spencer Wright leads Western Boone with 12.4 points per game, while Lucas Morton chips in 11.3 per contest. If the Mounties are to win and advance in the sectional, it will take a complete team effort, even if Howard gets going. “Justin is a great player and he is the focal point of our offense, but if we want to beat Western Boone, it will take a total team effort,” Turner said. “We have to play our best defensive game of the year, and we need everyone to play their role to their highest potential, play as hard and smart as we possibly can, and execute the game plan. If we do those things, we will have a chance at the end.” The winner of Southmont and Western Boone will play the winner of Crawfordsville and Lebanon in the second semi-final on Friday night at 7:30 p.m. Nitty Gritty Class 3A Sectional, First Round at Crawfordsville WHO: Southmont (4-18) vs. Western Boone (11-11). WHEN/WHERE: Wednesday, 6 p.m. at Crawfordsville. COACHES: Jake Turner, 12-26 in 2nd year at Southmont, 39-68 in 5th year overall. Bronson Lickliter, 18-27 in 2nd year at Western Boone. LAST MEETING: Western Boone, 59-40, Jan. 4, 2019. SERIES: Western Boone owns 28-16 record in last 30 years. VS COMMON FOES: Southmont 4-7; Western Boone 5-6. SCORING: The Mounties average 41.8 points a game, and give up 56 points a game. The Stars average 55.7 points per game, and give up 55.8 points per game. LEADERS: Justin Howard leads Southmont with 17.8 points per game. Spencer Wright leads Western Boone with 12.4 points per game.