A back and forth game turned into a game of catchup as Crawfordsville lost a 76-69 contest to West Lafayette.
After five lead changes in the first half and extending the lead to eight points early in the third quarter, the Athenians offense turned cold at the same time the Red Devils found a higher gear.
A 20-0 run turned what had been a 39-31 Athenians lead into a 51-39 Westside margin.
The home squad, missing four players, whittled the lead back to one with less than a minute to go, but the Red Devils hit their last eight free throws straight to keep the lead and give them their first win of the season.
“It was an interesting night,” Crawfordsville coach David Pierce said, noting the loss of four guys. “Coach (David) Wood and I were talking before the game that this was like a night from summer league. Both game plans were thrown out the window. Our guys did a nice job of adjusting through the game. I just thought we got winded, especially during that run. We are basically down to six guys.”
Westside had their own missing in action.
“We had three senior starters out,” Wood said. “Our guys gave a heck of an effort. After (a loss to Lafayette Jeff last week) we made a bunch of adjustments, like playing zone defense for the first time all season.”
One adjustment wasn’t needed for the Red Devils however, and that was the shooting of Braeden Shrewsberry.
The sophomore set a school record with 42 points, and from the first quarter on, under plenty of double-team defense.
“We learned that we have to have the hand in the face of a shooter before he shoots, and not when he is in the air,” Pierce said of the sniper, who was 14-of-24 from the field, hit seven 3-pointers and was 7-of-7 from the line.
The big number offset a solid offensive night for the Athenians, who fall to 1-2 on the season.
Four players got to double-digits, starting with Jesse Hall, who came off the bench to score 15 and lead the Athenians with five rebounds.
“He (Hall) was about 60% on one ankle,” Pierce said of the senior. “It was a real credit to him.”
Ty Lynas and Ian Hensley each had 14, and Cale Coursey added 11.
“Hensley had a good game,” Pierce said of the junior. “He was 5-of-7 from the field, 4-of-6 from three and had six assists.”
After a five-point first quarter lead, the Athenians had to fight back from as many as seven down to take a 35-30 halftime lead, but the wheels came off in a five-minute stretch of the third, when the lead disappeared for good.
“We weren’t patient enough on offense in that stretch,” Pierce noted, “and like I said, we were getting tired.”
The visitors used a dominating night on the boards to build that run and keep the lead. Divine Adeyanju scored nine of his 11 points and grabbed 12 of his 17 rebounds in the second half.
“Crawfordsville is a good team,” Wood said. “They may be really good. They didn’t let us do much of anything in the first half,” Wood said. “In the end, we got enough rebounds and made enough free throws to win.”
The third double-figure scorer for WL was Wyatt Curl, who was promoted from the junior varsity for the game.
The sophomore scored 18 points, including four big free throws in the last minute when Crawfordsville was mounting a comeback.
The Athenians forced 22 turnovers, and turned them into 27 points, but the final minute came down to the Red Devils keeping the ball enough and making big free throws.
Crawfordsville also celebrate seniors Jesse Hall, Ty Lynas, and Nate Schroeter.
The game also marks the last contest for Crawfordsville against Wood, who is retiring at the end of the season, his 27th at the helm of the WL program. He finishes 22-4 against the Athenians, and the comeback win denied Pierce of his first win against the 300-plus game winner.
“I grew up watching my dad coach against Coach Wood,” Pierce said. “They had some battles, but I always remember how Coach was just a great guy. Since I’ve become a coach, I know that what he does all the time is try to make you a better person. He is a phenomenal person, and coach. He has always been a great example to follow. We’re going to miss him, just not miss getting beat by him.”
Wood surveyed the scene on the way out of the gym.
“It’s always about having good people around you,” he said. “Good families, good players, good assistant coaches, good administrations. It’s never about wins and losses — it’s about playing right. The biggest joy I have always had is watching these guys grow up and become good adults."
The Athenians next scheduled game is next Tuesday at home against Lebanon.
The Red Devils won the jv game 43-42. Mikale Willis led Crawfordsville with 14 points, and Drake Burris added 10.