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BOYS BASKETBALL: Athenians outlast Tiger Cubs

GREENCASTLE — Crawfordsville needed a veteran leader to step up in their season opener against Greencastle on Tuesday, and Ty Lynas answered the bell.

The senior scored 14 of his team-high 21 points in the second half, helping stave off a Tiger Cub comeback and lifting the Athenians to a 72-63 win. The first for Crawfordsville over Greencastle since 2017 after four-straight losses, including an overtime heartbreaker in the 2019 sectional final.

After a lackluster scrimmage against Terre Haute North, Crawfordsville coach David Pierce couldn’t have been more pleased with his team’s effort.

“There was a lot of loose balls that I felt we came up with that we did not come up with in the scrimmage and was very disappointed,” he said. “Our word for tonight was fight. Just fight and compete and I was really proud of their effort. I thought we played with grit.”

Crawfordsville (1-0) led 23-12 after a quarter and 35-30 at the half, but Greencastle fought its way back and took a 49-46 lead behind a Cade Plew basket and Brody Whitaker free throw with 1:15 left in the third quarter.

And then Lynas and his senior teammate Jesse Hall did what senior leaders do. Hall, who reached double figures with 15 points despite sitting most of the second quarter with three fouls, buried a 3-pointer with four seconds left and Lynas stole the inbound pass and knocked down a shot at the buzzer to put the Athenians up 51-49 heading to the fourth.

“That 5-0 run at the end of the third quarter was pretty key,” Pierce said. “It gave us momentum and confidence.”

The teams traded a pair of baskets to start the fourth and then Alex Kellerman sparked a 13-3 Athenian run with a 3-point play to bury the Tiger Cubs. Kellerman, a junior, reached double-figures with 16 points in his first varsity start.

Crawfordsville’s scoring throughout proved to be balanced, with five players scoring in the fourth quarter as the Athenians outscored Greencastle 21-14. The Athenians sizzled their way to a 28-of-49 shooting night and outrebounded the Tiger Cubs 27-26.

Ziair Morgan added eight points, as did sophomore move-in Cale Coursey, who drew the defensive assignment of Whitaker, who averaged 26 points per game last season as a junior, and held the sharpshooter to a 6-of-19 night and just 2-of-8 from deep. Whitaker did lead all scorers with 23, with nine points from the line.

“A move in from Illinois, sophomore and great kid,” Pierce said of Coursey. “Just keeps his mouth quiet and plays and in no time he won the team over with his attitude and effort. I thought Cale as a sophomore did a heck of a job guarding Whitaker.”

Greencastle made just 8-of-23 attempts from behind the arc, while Crawfordsville knocked down 8-of-13. Evan Alexander added 15 for the Tiger Cubs, all on 3-pointers.

Crawfordsville turned the ball over just 14 times, but five came in the third quarter allowing Greencastle to claw back into it. Alexander knocked down three-straight triples and the Tiger Cubs held the Athenians over 2:30 without a field goal.

“Turnovers in the first game of the season are going to happen,” Pierce said. “You just don’t want them back-to-back-to-back, especially against Greencastle and Whitaker — he’s smooth and a really talented player — I thought we did a really good job of finding guys that were key.”

Crawfordsville returns to the court next Friday at home against Sagamore Conference rival Lebanon. Greencastle is at West Vigo.

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