After a summer slate of 30 games, Crawfordsville boys’ basketball was entering the fall ready to make history.
The Athenians were coming off a 18-win season, and poised to chase a second-straight Sagamore Conference title and their first sectional title since 2014.
Things don’t always go as planned though, and the Athenians were thrown a curve-ball with different players in new roles when the season got underway in November.
“It made it really difficult, because the roles that we defined and the work we put in during the summer for 30 games to prepare and now all the sudden ‘oops,’” 10th-year coach David Pierce said.
Crawfordsville was down to just two returning starters from 2018-19 in senior Karsten Williamson and junior Jesse Hall.
The duo has continued their dominance offensively with a combined 26.4 points per game, but everything else has been a work in progress.
“One thing we really struggled with early was kids would be like ‘we don’t know our roles,’” Pierce said. “And it wasn’t that they didn’t know their roles, it was that they hadn’t done them long enough that they understood or were comfortable with the role. We are super pleased at the opportunity that’s given us even though we’ve had to take some lumps.”
Crawfordsville is 12-9 on the season, and has often turned a corner, like winning four straight at the turn of the new year, but then followed it with a seven-game stretch of alternating wins and losses, including a 58-56 overtime loss to Southmont after beating the Mounties by 41 just two weeks earlier.
“The hardest part is just getting younger people to trust us,” Pierce said. “We are not going to be putting them in positions to fail. If we asked them to play a role it’s because we know they can or they just need to show they can.”
While the Athenians expected sophomore Ian Hensley to be a varsity starter, they didn’t expect three more sophomores being elevated to the varsity level this season.
Hensley is averaging 7.6 points per game, while Mekhi Wallace is averaging 3.2 after stepping into a starting role when Nate Schroeter had season-ending surgery to repair a broken wrist he suffered in football.
“I think Mekhi has been a pleasant surprise for us,” Pierce said.
Ziair Morgan has also been a varsity regular since early in the season, and is averaging six points per game, while fellow sophomore Alex Kellerman has split time between junior-varsity and varsity, appearing in 15 games.
“We could have licked our wounds and been the victim is what we could have done, and we chose not to,” Pierce said. “We chose to get those young guys going and that’s the nice part of our staff, they are always positive.”
Senior Carson Scott has also stepped into a starting role to help fill out the lineup. The once defensive specialist has averaged almost four points per game in the last seven contests.
The biggest challenge for the Athenians continues to be filling the leadership void left by 2019 seniors Will Kellerman and Cam Saunders.
“They always say good teams are led by coaches, and great teams are led by players,” Pierce said. “And we are not a great team yet. I think we are a good young team, but until we get guys to buy-into talking nonstop — We are starting to get there.”
“It takes time for leadership to happen,” he added. “Because the longer someone does it you can trust what they’re saying is right, and the more likely you are to listen them.”
Crawfordsville closes out the regular season tonight at Covington, before playing Tri-West in the first round of the sectional on Wednesday at Greencastle.