A 16-2 run by the Clarksville Generals over the third and fourth quarters propelled them to a 46-38 sectional championship win over Paoli Saturday at the Class 2A Crawford County Sectional and on to the Southridge Regional on Saturday in Huntingburg.
“It’s been a journey. This feels amazing,” said Clarksville senior forward Austin Johnson, who finished with 11 points and seven rebounds for the Generals in Saturday’s win. “Our program has come such a long way from where we were when I was a freshman. It’s hard to even put into words.”
In defeating the Rams (14-8), Class 2A No. 8 Clarksville won its first sectional championship in boys’ basketball since 1986.
The Generals fell behind early and shot poorly from the field in the first half, only connecting 5-of-20 from the field in the first half.
The play that closed the first half seemed to typify the Generals’ troubles. With time winding down, Clarksville forward Aidan McEwen came up with a steal on Paoli’s side of the court, but he missed a layup after driving the length of the court as the buzzer sounded to close the first half as the Rams led at intermission 15-12.
Behind early baskets from Aaron Key and Austin Moore, Paoli gained an early 4-0 lead two minutes into the contest.
The Rams led 6-3 when a 3-pointer from Clarksville forward Austin Johnson knotted it up with 1:32 remaining. A nice feed from guard Calvin McEwen to Johnson which resulted in a lay-up with 19 seconds remaining in the first quarter and gave the Generals a 8-6 lead heading into the second frame.
A tip-in dunk by Johnson gave Clarksville a 12-11 lead with 5:26 remaining in the first half and ignited the General crowd, but baskets by Moore and Key gave Paoli a 15-12 lead with under three minutes to play in the first half — and that’s what the score was at intermission.
Unlike their matchup Friday night against Eastern, the Generals shot poorly from the field to open the contest. Guard Andrew Jones, who averaged 16.5 points in wins against Providence and Eastern, finished the first half 1-of-7 from the field for only two points. Jones’s running mate in the backcourt — Calvin McEwen — finished the first half with three points on one 3-point field goal.
But the Generals’ fortunes would change in the second half. Late in the third quarter, back-to-back 3-pointers by Calvin McEwen and two free throws from D.J. Coleman gave Clarksville a 28-27 lead at the end of three quarters.
Aidan McEwen scored inside for Clarksville (18-5) to open the fourth quarter, and a put-back from Johnson on Clarksville’s next possession made the lead 32-27 Clarksville, with five minutes remaining. Once the Generals captured the lead, they attacked the Paoli defense, drawing fouls on drives to the basket and sinking 8-of-13 free throws over the final five minutes of the contest.
Calvin McEwen finished with 15 points, going from 6-of-9 from the free throw line and 3-of-6 from 3-point range. Jones rebounded and finished with 10 points.
“Shooting is just confidence and rhythm, and in the first half, we just couldn’t really get into it,” said junior Calvin McEwen as his teammates cut down the nets in the Crawford County gymnasium. “In the second half, we got a little more confidence and started knocking them down — and that’s all it was.”
In Tanner Wroblewski, Austin Moore and Ben Bosley, Paoli had three front-line players who stand 6-foot-4 or taller, and in the first half the General players found it difficult to operate. Again, as Clarksville’s players grew more confident, they went into attack mode, McEwen said.
“We haven’t played against a team with that kind of length this year, maybe Providence,” he said. “In the second half, I think we felt more comfortable going inside and we were able to get to the free-throw line and we knocked the shots down.”
More happy than anyone on the Generals’ win was coach Jason Connell, who took over in mid-season during the 2010-11 season. Connell credited his players for making adjustments and their hard work and was beaming after the win.
“You know what, it’s the kids,” he said. “They bought into this. I’m tough on them. It’s because of their hard work and their unselfishness that they’ve gotten this far. I’m proud of them.”
Clarksville’s next challenge comes against the 10th-ranked Linton-Stockton Miners (20-3), who defeated No. 5 Sullivan 47-40 for the North Knox Sectional.
Gametime at Huntingburg Memorial Stadium Saturday is estimated to be around noon, following the first semifinal between No. 13 Perry Central (20-3) and unranked Switzerland County (17-4).
CLASS 2A CRAWFORD COUNTY SECTIONAL
CLARKSVILLE 46, PAOLI 38
Paoli 6 9 12 11—38
Clarksville 8 4 16 18—46
Clarksville (18-5): Jermargio Smith 1, Bailey McEwen 0, Austin Johnson 11, Aidan McEwen 7, Calvin McEwen 15, Andrew Jones 10, D.J. Coleman 2, Marquise Parrish 0.
Paoli (14-8): Tanner Wroblewski 8, Lee Wroblewski 5, Aaron Key 8, Michael Stroud 5, Austin Moore 6, Ben Bosley 0, Garrett Strange 6.
Rebounds: Clarksville 28 (Johnson, A. McEwen 7); Paoli 25 (T. Wroblewski 8)
3-point field goals: Clarksville 4 (C. McEwen 3, Johnson); Paoli 3 (Stroud, Strange 2).
Turnovers: Clarksville 13, Paoli 15.
Free throws: Clarksville 16-24, Paoli 3-10.