Crawfordsville will play for the sectional championship tonight after defeating Western Boone 52-43 in the semifinals.
The Athenians move their record to 18-6, the most wins by a Crawfordsville basketball team since the 1972-73 team won 20.
They will play for their second sectional title under David Pierce, which is also the number of titles since class basketball started.
It was third time is the charm for the Athenians in downing the Stars, whose season ends at 12-12. A Sugar Creek Classic championship, and a game at Dover, were also Crawfordsville victories.
But it wasn’t easy, as Crawfordsville had to battle out of a hole to pick up the tournament win, which also gives the Athenians a 3-2 overall sectional record against the Stars.
Trailing 25-24 at halftime, and then 29-26 with 3:24 left in the third, Crawfordsville scored the next 10 points over a four minute stretch.
After the Stars got one field goal, the Athenians scored nine more, and there wasn’t much left except to make some free throws and set the final score.
“Every player on this team, and I mean every one, takes real pride in their defense,” Coach Pierce said. “When you can play defense like we did, then get a rebound and get to the other end of the floor, it makes for real momentum swings. I thought we controlled the tempo in the second half. We doubled down on our traps and rotated well after a trap.”
The defense started with stopping WeBo’s leading scorer.
“Jesse Johnson-Hall might have scored 11 points,” Pierce said of the big sophomore, “but tonight it was all about his defense. He held (Stars leading scorer Spencer) Wright to 1-of-10 shooting and forced six turnovers. He was frustrated by how they were double-teaming him, but he is a smart player and he really stepped up defensively.”
Wright, who averaged better than 12 points, got a first-quarter field goal.
There were others who stepped up defensively.
“Will Kellerman was plus-26 on our charts,” Pierce said of the senior. “He took two big charges and had three steals. Gonzo (Anthony Gonzalez) also took two huge charges. They were both leaders.”
Kellerman, scoreless in the first half, got all nine of his points in the second. The senior pulled down four rebounds.
Leading the way on the scoresheet was Tray Scorza with 13. The junior guard had 11 in the second half, and his three layins in the third quarter were all off the same screen play, and all happened in the 10-0 run.
“Scorza was fun to watch tonight,” Pierce noted. “That’s what makes this team a team. He stepped up and played with confidence.”
Karsten Williamson had 11 as well, to go with a couple assists and a steal. “He gets by guys and scores,” Pierce said of the senior. “He gets bumped and pushed all over the place, but he doesn’t turn the ball over.”
For the game, Crawfordsville was 20-of-36 from the floor, 3-of-12 from long range and 9-of-13 from the line. They had 20 rebounds, led by Johnson-Hall with seven and Cam Saunders with six. They were guilty of 13 turnovers.
The Stars were 19-of-42 from the field, 4-of-11 from deep and shot one free throw all game, making that one. They had 23 rebounds and 18 turnovers, which became 21 Crawfordsville points.
“Crawfordsville does a nice job with their run and jump trap,” WeBo coach Bronson Lickliter said. “We tried to make one too many passes a few times, and didn’t handle the pressure a couple others. That cost us.”
The Stars were led in scoring by Cortez Stoudemire with 11 points, followed by Peyton Young with 10.
Crawfordsville will play for its 42nd sectional title in school history tonight against Greencastle, who eliminated North Montgomery in the other semifinal matchup. They will be playing a sectional championship game on their home floor for the first time since 1971.
The Tiger Cubs defeated the Athenians 67-55 in the first game of the season for both teams, back in late November. Greencastle brings a 20-4 record into the contest.
“We have to go do what we do best,” Pierce said. “We were very tentative, especially on defense, in that first game. We like to think we are completely different team now. We have to rotate on defense and we can’t leave their shooters open. One of the team’s motto’s this year has been ‘cut the nets.’ We’ll get a shot at that Saturday.”