Class 2A No. 8 Clarksville advanced to gain the chance to win its first boys’ basketball sectional championship since 1986 with a 63-40 win over the Musketeers in Friday’s 2A sectional semifinal.
“I’ve told these kids that defense and rebounding are what leads to us getting good starts,” Clarksville (17-5) coach Jason Connell, whose squad scored 8 unanswered points to open the game for the Generals over the first 3:03, said. “We do those two things well, you get some easy baskets and you can be on your way.”
In the early game, sectional host Crawford County fell to Paoli in a tightly-contested ballgame 60-58. Clarksville will face Paoli tonight at 7:30 p.m.
The early run by Clarksville was capped by a 3-pointer from guard Andrew Jones, which gave the Generals an 8-0 lead with 4:57 remaining in the first quarter. The Generals led after the first quarter 22-12 and carried a 36-22 advantage into intermission.
The key factor in that was Jones, who exploded for all 21 of his game-high points in the first half, making seven of his 10 shots from the field, inculding 3-of-5 from beyond the 3-point line.
“He was key,” Connell said of Jones. “He penetrated and got to the rim quite a bit for us. He is really hard to guard in the full-court. In the half-court he is too, but he’s really got an advantage in the full-court.”
The Musketeers, who fell to the Mid-Southern Conference rival Clarksville 48-36 on Dec. 8, simply had no answer for Jones and the rest of the Generals. Where Jones dominated the first half, senior forward Aidan McEwen took over in the second half, scoring 12 of his 19 points on 6-of-7 shooting from the field.
Eastern (9-12), despite having a size advantage on paper against the Generals, were out-rebounded by Clarksville 36-19.
“It was a tough night for us,” Eastern coach Scott Newcomb said. “We didn’t really get anything going offensively. At halftime, we had eight shots in the lane that we had missed. When you’re playing a high-quality team like Clarksville, you have to finish those opportunities.”
The game wasn’t without some trouble for Clarksville. The Generals turned the ball over an uncharacteristic 15 times. Three of them game on consecutive offensive possessions as Eastern narrowed the margin to nine at 36-27 early in the third quarter after guard Tevin Wolf nailed a 3-pointer.
“I thought we came out focused, but our focus wasn’t good for a lot of the game,” Connell said. “We threw the ball away too much. We didn’t protect it as good as we should of at times. Hopefully we’ll be able to overcome that.”
Eastern graduates guards Wolf, R.J. Jackson and Shane Williams, as well as post player Austin Churchman. Wolf led the Musketeers with nine points and Jackson added eight.
“We need to get weights in our hands and get quicker,” Newcomb said. “We’ve got some kids coming back who are good shooters, but we kind of relied on Tevn and R.J. to do most of our penetration this year, so the guys coming back — they have to be able to beat their guy off the dribble.”
As for Saturday’s championship game, Connell offered this assessment of the Rams: “They’re physical. They’re big — and they play really good defense. It’s going to be tough. They’re a good team, and Coach [Dusty] Cole always has them ready to play.”