NEW MARKET — Belle Miller had an answer to the second half shooting woes for Southmont.
Get to the free throw line.
The junior scored seven of the Mounties nine overtime points — five of which came at the charity stripe — to lift Southmont over Crawfordsville 43-37 to claim the 14th annual girls’ Sugar Creek Classic title.
“I think around the end of the fourth quarter, coach Wolfe (assistant coach) came over to me and told me to demand the ball,” Miller said. “And then everyone else on the team pulled through at the end as well.”
Miller led all scorers with 16 points, including 10 in the second half and was named tournament MVP.
Leading 27-15 at the half, the Mounties struggled over the last 16 minutes of regulation — connecting on just 1-of-20 field goal attempts in the third and fourth quarters.
Kearston Hutchens and Olivia Reed sparked an 8-0 run by the Athenians with a pair of 3-pointers to start the second half as Crawfordsville (1-3) cut the deficit to six after three quarters. Liddy McCarty had a basket and a free throw to help the Athenians cut it to 33-32 with 1:59 left. Miller made 1-of-2 from the line for the Mounties at the 38 second mark before Jayda Roach tied the game at 34 with 25 seconds left — eventually sending the game to overtime. It was the first time the game had been tied since it was 0-0. The Athenians never led.
“Defensively we switched it up and made a few adjustments and gave them a few problems and then stuck with it, and that led to some offense and more belief that we were still in the game,” Crawfordsville coach Tyler Smith said.
A pair of Miller free throws and a basket by Sidney Veatch gave the Mounties (3-0) a quick 38-34 lead in the overtime, before Reed knocked down her third triple of the game for the Athenians. Miller iced the game with a 3-of-4 effort from the line and a basket in the final 1:11 of play.
Defense, which helped the Mounties to a quick start at the beginning of the game, gave Southmont the last push it needed.
“I think coming back out in our 1-3-1 to start the overtime period kind of got us going,” Mounties coach Dan Burkman said. “because I think our intensity really fell off the table for several different reasons.”
Veatch added 12 points for the Mounties and also earned all-tournament team honors. Reed and Hutchens, both juniors, led the Athenians with 11 points apiece. Reed joined Miller and Veatch and North Montgomery’s Hadley Broadwater and Western Boone’s Emily Conyer on the all-tournament team.
The win gives Southmont its first Sugar Creek Classic title in girls’ basketball. The Mounties started the tournament with 12-straight losses in its first six years, but have played in the championship game five of the last eight seasons. When Burkman found out about the tournament, he knew it had to be an early season focus.
“We talk about championships,” the first-year Mounties coach said. “And of course our focus is on the sectional, but when I heard about this it became a pinpoint for us. Winning a championship for the first time at Southmont was important to the girls and therefore important to me.”
Crawfordsville hopes to use the runner-up finish as a springboard into the rest of the season. Hutchens had her first double-figure scoring game of the season and McCarty added eight points in her first game since tearing her ACL against Southmont in the classic last November.
“We are big believers in both of them,” Smith said. “We knew at some point Kearston’s shot was going to come and she opens up a whole lot for us. And Liddy it’s come full circle, her last game was against South last year and to be able to come back, she does so many things for us. The energy and the toughness.”
Crawfordsville and Southmont will both make trips to Putnam County before Thanksgiving. The Athenians hit the road to Greencastle on Tuesday, while Southmont travels to North Putnam.