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BOYS SECTIONAL PREVIEW: Athenians ready for difficult path to sectional title

Wipe away the regular season and past years.

Crawfordsville boys’ basketball is focused on the task at hand — even if it’s an uphill climb.

The Athenians (12-6), Greencastle (18-6), and Danville (14-4) all got placed in the same side of the bracket, with Crawfordsville and Danville meeting in the opening quarterfinal game on Wednesday night at Frankfort and Greencastle and North Montgomery (2-11) to follow. The winners will play each other in the semifinals on Friday.

In the regular season the Warriors beat the Athenians 84-73, but lost to Greencastle 65-56 and Crawfordsville beat the Tiger Cubs 72-63.

Crawfordsville was just 2-2 in early January, but hit its stride by winning nine of the next 10.

“The biggest change from the beginning of the season to now, is that the guys know their roles,” Crawfordsville coach David Pierce said. “By not having a summer, it took a little bit of time to identify those roles. Once we figured out what those roles were going to be, the guys have accepted those roles and done a nice job of executing those roles.”

Senior Jesse Hall, the Athenians top returner leads the way with over 19 points per game, while fellow senior Ty Lynas (right) averages 17 points a contest and junior Alex Kellerman adds 9.6 per game as a 3-point threat.

After a 13-11 season last year, the Athenians are back in the drivers seat to compete for the sectional title, and junior point guard Ian Hensley has been a large reason why. Hensley is averaging 6.9 points per game, 5.2 rebounds, and 3.8 assists. The Athenians enter sectional play losers of three of their last four, all played without Hensley — including the Danville game.

And Pierce hopes that a healthy lineup and more experience will make all the difference this week.

“Anytime you lose your point guard and leader on the court, it’s going to be difficult,” he said. “Even though we lost a couple of games last week, we feel that we learned a lot in the last four games that has allowed other guys to step-up and fill that spot.”

Danville is a team that scores at will. The Warriors are averaging over 75 points per game and have exceeded their average 12 times this season. Kobe Ward leads Danville with 20.6 points per game, while Brady Ruggles chips in 14.3 points per game and Tyler Dostin 12.3 a contest.

Pierce says the Athenians aren’t all that concerned about Danville’s offensive firepower. They know if they control the game on the offensive end, good things will happen.

“In our first outing, we did not make Danville work on the defensive end,” he said. “We would shoot the ball within the first two passes. Our hope is that we are more patient on the offensive end and make Danville play defense.”

On the other side of the bracket, Tri-West (8-9) plays Frankfort (10-10) with the winner to play Monrovia (7-12).

The Athenians know their path to win a sectional title for the first time since 2014 — but they’re not worried about past years or even future games — the focus is all on Danville, a team they haven’t beaten since 2007.

“We are not thinking at all about the past,” Pierce said. “We are simply focusing on Danville. Our focus will be to execute the game plan and take high percentage shots. If we do that, good things will happen.”

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