By GREG MENGELT
FLOYDS KNOBS —
It hasn’t always been an easy year for Floyd Central under first-year coach Mark Lieberman — especially in the win column.
The Highlanders upset Jennings County 69-67 in overtime on Tuesday for their fourth win in 21 games. The victory was the first in February for Floyd, but it hasn’t seemed to discourage the team.
“We’re getting there, we’re getting better,” sophomore Connor Sturgeon said, “so we’re getting there. We’re just keeping our heads up and keep going to work.”
Despite the win-loss record, the Highlanders have proven at times that they can compete with good teams. First was a 49-45 loss to Hoosier Hills Conference champion New Albany in Floyd’s second game of the season. Then there was a 64-61 win over Portage in Richmond on Jan. 2. On Jan. 17, the Highlanders beat two-time defending Seymour Sectional champion Jeffersonville 71-70.
Tuesday’s win came against a Jennings County team that had knocked off Jeff and New Albany and had won four of its last five games in the past two weeks to introduce itself as a sectional contender.
When talking with the Highlander players, you’d never guess that they are 4-17 and are part of a program that hasn’t had a winning season since 2011 and hasn’t won a sectional since their Final Four team in 1989. In fact, they believe they can end that draught next week.
“I don’t think our record shows who we really are,” said Zane Nichols, the only Highlander senior. “I think we can compete with anybody in the conference and in the sectional. I think we can beat anybody in it.”
“We’ve proven that we can play with these teams and we’ve beaten some good teams,” Sturgeon said, “so obviously, we’re feeling pretty good about it coming in [to the sectional].”
Floyd closes its regular season Friday at Charlestown. The Highlanders will be favored to beat the struggling 4-14 Pirates and enter the sectional on a two-game winning streak.
“We want to win [on Friday],” Sturgeon said, “but wins and losses don’t really matter until the sectional. We want to get into the sectional on a roll.”
GAME OF THE WEEK
SILVER CREEK (12-6, 6-2 MSC) at CLARKSVILLE (17-2, 7-1 MSC)
• DAY/TIME: Thursday, 7:30 p.m.
• RANKINGS: Silver Creek — Class 3A No. 14 AP; Clarksville — Class 2A No. 2 AP.
• LAST 20 YEARS: Silver Creek 27-8.
• EARLIER THIS YEAR: Clarksville 51, at Silver Creek 45 (Silver Creek Holliday Tournament championship game).
• LAST YEAR: Clarksville 77, at Silver Creek 47 (regular season); Clarksville 45, at Silver Creek 42 (Silver Creek Holliday Tournament first round).
• REASON TO WATCH: Clarksville can clinch its second Mid-Southern Conference championship in three years with a victory and match last year’s win total when it went 18-6 and won its first sectional championship since 1986. Creek can clinch a third-place finish with the Generals with a win.
• ANALYSIS: Clarksville is the better team at this point. On their home floor, the Generals should pull away for the win.
• THE PICK: Clarksville 80, Silver Creek 68.
FLOYD CENTRAL (4-17) at CHARLESTOWN (4-14)
• TIME: 7:30 p.m.
• LAST 20 YEARS: Floyd Central 12-3.
• LAST YEAR: At Floyd Central 81, Charlestown 79 (2OT).
• REASON TO WATCH: The Highlanders beat Jennings County on Tuesday and are suddenly a dangerous team heading into the sectional. Charlestown could use a home win before heading to North Harrison, where the Pirates got a favorable draw.
• ANALYSIS: Floyd Central is more talented than its record indicates. Perhaps more importantly, the Highlanders believe they’re much better than 4-17.
• THE PICK: Floyd Central 66, Charlestown 49.
NEW ALBANY (14-5) at BLOOMINGTON NORTH (11-8)
• TIME: 7:30 p.m.
• RADIO: WXVW-1450 AM, WNAS-88.1 FM, WGTK-970 AM.
• LAST 20 YEARS: New Albany 7-3.
• LAST YEAR: Bloomington North 56, at New Albany 47.
• REASON TO WATCH: New Albany has been great at home but inconsistent on the road. Of course, the tournament will be played away from the Doghouse, making Saturday’s game important. The Bulldogs can bookend their regular season with wins in Bloomington.
• ANALYSIS: New Albany have already started to roll on its way to a sectional championship next week.
• THE PICK: New Albany 63, Bloomington North 56.
SALEM (2-16) at BORDEN (15-4)
• TIME: 7:30 p.m.
• RANKINGS: Borden — Class A No. 9 AP.
• LAST 20 YEARS: Salem 18-11.
• EARLIER THIS SEASON: Borden 59, at Salem 38 (Washington County Invitational).
• LAST YEAR: Borden 63, at Salem 34.
• REASON TO WATCH: It’s been a good year in Borden. Maybe even better than expected after losing four starters. However, there have been some inconsistencies — mostly on offense — over the past few weeks. The Braves could use a decisive win heading into the tournament.
• ANALYSIS: Salem used to dominate this series. No long. The Braves will cruise to their fifth straight win in this rivalry.
• THE PICK: Borden 59, Salem 32.
SEYMOUR (2-16) at SILVER CREEK (12-6)
• TIME: 7:30 p.m.
• RANKINGS: Silver Creek — Class 3A No. 14 AP.
• LAST 20 YEARS: Seymour 9-4.
• LAST YEAR: Silver Creek 53, at Seymour 47.
• REASON TO WATCH: Three games in four days and fifth games in eight days is like an NBA schedule. It will be interesting to see how the hurting Dragons respond after Thursday’s big game at Clarksville.
• ANALYSIS: At this point in the Owls’ rebuilding process, Creek simply has too much talent for Seymour. The big test will come Tuesday when Madison will try to exact revenge for an earlier loss to the Dragons.
• THE PICK: Silver Creek 57, Seymour 44.
PROVIDENCE (12-6) at NEW WASHINGTON (6-14)
• TIME: 7:30 p.m.
• LAST 20 YEARS: Providence 15-5.
• LAST YEAR: At Providence 58, New Washington 18.
• REASON TO WATCH: The Mustangs managed just 18 points against a swarming Providence defense a year ago. New Wash coach Jonathan May said he believes his team can win the Borden Sectional next week. The Mustangs can go a long way toward proving that to themselves with an upset on Friday.
• ANALYSIS: The Pioneer defense isn’t as strong as it was last year, but it’s still solid. The Mustangs have scored under 40 points eight times this season and has scored 51 or fewer in 14 of 20 games. It could be a long night at Matthews Gymnasium.
• THE PICK: Providence 50, New Washington 29.
EASTERN (5-13) at SPRINGS VALLEY (8-12)
• TIME: 7:30 p.m.
• LAST 20 YEARS: Eastern 9-5.
• LAST YEAR: Springs Valley 56, at Eastern 46.
• REASON TO WATCH: It’s been a rough year in Pekin, but the Musketeers have played well at times. They’re just 2-6 in true road games. Friday is a chance to show they can win away from home. At the very least, Eastern can help the MSC continue to prove it superiority over the PLAC.
• ANALYSIS: Eastern plays a much tougher schedule and is probably the better team. Winning on the road has been its bugaboo, but I love its chances to come away with a win on Friday.
• THE PICK: Eastern 65, Springs Valley 63.
INDIANAPOLIS HERRON (16-4) at HENRYVILLE (3-16)
• TIME: 8 p.m.
• LAST 20 YEARS: Herron 1-0.
• LAST YEAR: Herron 70, at Henryville 67.
• REASON TO WATCH: Herron has been a nice story this year, going 16-4 and winning 15 of its last 17 games. However, the Achaeans play an inferior schedule to the Hornets’ and wouldn’t survive in the SAC. Although the results haven’t always shown it, Henryville is a program on the rise. With work, Hornet freshman Braxton Robertson could be a star. Henryville needs this home win to cement itself as a factor in 2014-15.
• ANALYSIS: I like the Hornets in this one. A lot. They played well for most of the game Tuesday against Class 2A No. 2 Clarksville. Herron is a big step down from the Generals.
• THE PICK: Henryville 69, Herron 61.
CANNELTON (2-17) at ROCK CREEK (12-9)
• TIME: 6:30 p.m.
• LAST 20 YEARS: Rock Creek 15-3.
• LAST YEAR: Rock Creek 71, at Cannelton 52.
• REASON TO WATCH: Rock Creek played a tough regular-season schedule and is about to complete it at 13-9. A win Friday will give them four straight victories and with some momentum heading into the Borden Sectional.
• ANALYSIS: This is no contest.
• THE PICK: Rock Creek 101, Cannelton 54.
CLASS 4A SOUTH SEMISTATE
LAWRENCE NORTH (25-1) at BEDFORD NORTH LAWRENCE (25-1)
• TIME: 6:15 p.m.
• RANKINGS: Lawrence North — Class 4A No. 1 ICGSA; Bedford North Lawrence — Class 4A No. 2 ICGSA.
• LAST 20 YEARS: Tied 1-1.
• REGULAR SEASON: At Lawrence North 59, Bedford North Lawrence 49 on Jan. 10.
• LAST YEAR: At Bedford North Lawrence 56, Lawrence North 54 (OT).
• REASON TO WATCH: This is the Game of the Year in Indiana. The Stars and Wildcats are the state’s two best teams. The regular-season game was big. This is bigger. Chances are the winner will go on to win the state title next week.
• ANALYSIS: The Wildcats won the regular-season matchup. Whether it’s fair or not, Saturday will be played on Damon Bailey Court, which is named after BNL’s current head coach. The homecourt advantage will be the difference between two evenly-matched teams.
• THE PICK: Bedford North Lawrence 61, Lawrence North 55.