Crawfordsville boys’ basketball is searching for a Sagamore Conference title for the second time in three years.
It’ll be winner take all when the Athenians travel to Danville on Friday night. A win would give Crawfordsville its first outright league championship since 1973. The Athenians shared the conference title in 2019 with Tri-West. Danville is hoping to repeat as the outright SAC champion, and is looking for its fifth league crown since 2014.
Crawfordsville enters Friday night on a four-game win streak, including three SAC wins. They’ve won nine of their last 10 and are 11-3 overall. Danville, who is ranked No. 7 in the latest Associated Press Class 3A poll, is 13-2 overall and have won five-straight. The Warriors losses are to Southwestern (Hanover) and a Greencastle team that Crawfordsville defeated to open the season.
“Danville has really tough kids that love to rebound,” Crawfordsville coach David Pierce said. “They have two kids that average 9+ rebounds a game and that is going to be a challenge to deal with.”
Senior Kobe Ward is averaging a double-double for the Warriors. He leads the conference with 21 points per game, 11.1 rebounds per game and 2.8 steals a contest. Junior Tyler Dostin is right behind Ward in the SAC with 8.3 rebounds per game. He also averages 13.1 points per game for a Danville team that scores at a pace of 75.9 points per game, good enough for an 18.8 point scoring margin. Danville has reached the 80-point mark in seven games, including hitting 90 twice this season.
The Athenians, who average 69 points per game, against a 55-point defensive average, have their own dynamic duo in seniors Jesse Hall and Ty Lynas. Hall is averaging 18.3 points per game and 6.1 rebounds per game, while Lynas averages 17.5 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 3.9 assists.
Hall and Lynas have led the Athenians all season, but their ability to come together as a team is starting to pay off.
“Guys have figured out their roles on the team and have embraced them,” Pierce said. “By not having a summer to define or work on those roles, we have had to kind of figure it out along the way. Lucky for us, we were able to rely on talented seniors to pull us along for the first half of the season. Since the mid point though, our underclassmen have stepped up and taken a lot of pressure off the seniors which has allowed them to really shine.”
The junior foursome of Ian Hensley, Alex Kellerman, Ziair Morgan, and Mekhi Wallace combine for 25.4 points per game.
After a .500 season that featured many peaks and valleys in 2019-20, the Athenians are back in a familiar seat they were two years ago — traveling to Danville for a chance to win an outright conference title.
Hall is the only regular varsity leftover from the 2020 team that came within an overtime loss to Greencastle from a sectional title and gave the Athenians their first conference championship since 1987 — but Pierce is proud of the work his entire team has put in to get them back in the same situation.
“Work and choices. Success is no accident,” he said. “These guys have chosen to put the work in to be more skilled and competitive than their opponents. This group of kids have sacrificed a lot to do what they love. Whether it’s summer, travel ball, in season, pre-season, these kids love putting in the work. That’s why they are good. They have earned it. In the locker room when you walk in and out it says, ‘WE ARE ALWAYS CHOOSING.’ It’s a little reminder that we choose our attitude, how we respond to events, how we love one another, and how we are going to handle adversity. These guys, as a group, make good choices most of the time. They are not perfect, but they are obviously better than most.”
Losers of six-straight on the road against the Warriors, Crawfordsville hasn’t won at Danville since 2007. It’s also the last win for the Athenians over the Warriors. It’s been all Danville in the last 17 meetings.
That won’t matter come Friday.
“Danville is a difficult team to beat anywhere, but so is Crawfordsville,” Pierce said. We plan to go to war on friday. It would obviously, mean a lot. It would be our team and program reaping the benefits of everyone’s hard work and sacrifice. It’s really hard to go 6-0 in our conference. 7-0 would be something special.”