By GREG MENGELT
The Andrew Jones transfer from Henryville to Clarksville in the offseason gave an already-strong team with dreams of winning the program’s first sectional title since 1986 even higher expectations than it already had.
It turned out he was exactly what the Generals needed.
In Tuesday’s 39-35 Class 2A Crawford County Sectional first-round win over Providence, which had beaten Clarksville twice during the season, Jones had a team-high 12 points and got the Generals off to a great start by scoring their first five points.
“One thing with Andrew is he’s hard to guard,” Clarksville coach Jason Connell said. “He can do so many good things with the basketball in his hands. He set the tone for us. The first couple of possessions, he got to the basket for us. That’s not easy to do. When he comes out and plays like that off the bat, it does wonders for our team.”
There was no doubt that Jones’ presence made the Generals more talented. Connell was concerned about how the junior would fit into a lineup that was already filled with talent.
It didn’t take him long to realize Jones was a perfect fit.
“Most importantly, he’s been a great teammate,” Connell said of Jones. “Coming into a new situation, you don’t know how it’s going to play out. He’s a great teammate to the rest of the team. He’s a player that you love to have on your team.”
On Thursday, Jones answered some questions about the win over Providence, the Generals’ quest for a sectional crown, the tornado that leveled Henryville a year ago and more in the News and Tribune’s “On the Spot” series.
• QUESTION: What did it mean for you and your teammates to beat Providence after it had beaten you twice during the season?
• JONES: “It was a good win. Every time I’ve played Providence — even at Henryville — we lost to them. It was definitely enjoyable. They were a real good team. We almost did ourselves pretty bad, missing all those free throws in the end. But either way, it was a good win.”
• Q: After the Pioneers had beaten you twice — in two really close games — how confident were you that you could beat them in the third meeting?
• JONES: “Well, I had a lot of confidence. So did my teammates. I just knew it is tough to beat a team three times in one season. We knew and they knew that we were both good teams and it was going to be a really good game.”
• Q: Any fear of overconfidence heading into Friday’s game against Eastern and a potential championship game against either Paoli or Crawford County? Having beaten Providence, is there any chance of a letdown?
• JONES: “We know that we’re going to have to go out there and give it our all. We beat [Eastern] once already and we know they’re going to come out and play their hearts out. Every game will be a good game.”
• Q: If you get past Eastern, you will face Paoli or Crawford County. Will you expect a tough challenge either way?
• JONES: “We played Paoli early on in a scrimmage. They’re a good team with pretty good size. Crawford, I saw them for the first time against Henryville [Tuesday in the sectional]. That was the first time I’ve seen them play. They’re definitely a good team. They’ll be tough.”
• Q: It’s been since 1986 since Clarksville has won a sectional championship. How excited are you guys about the possibility of winning the school’s first championship in 27 years?
• JONES: “It’s exciting no matter what. Winning a sectional is great no matter what. I’ve never been in that position, but it’s definitely a good thing to do.”
• Q: How far can this team go in the tournament?
• JONES: “I think we can go pretty far as long as everybody sticks together and plays team basketball.”
• Q: The one-year anniversary of the tornado in Henryville is Saturday. What do you remember about that day?
• JONES: “I didn’t go to school that day. My dad told me the storms were going to be bad, so I didn’t go to school. It was tragic. I remember going up there later on that day and seeing all the damage that was done, seeing everyone walking around. It was crazy. I couldn’t believe that it happened. It’s crazy that something like that can happen to a school that you went to.”
• Q: A year later, what sticks with you the most about that day?
• JONES: “My grandparents — well, my stepmom’s parents — they actually lost their house. It’s crazy knowing someone who lost their house.”
• Q: How did you wind up in Clarksville?
• JONES: “I was already living in Clarksville. I had been here about a year. My dad told me I was [transferring to Clarksville High School]. I didn’t want to come here at first. Now I love it, though.”
• Q: How happy have you been to have landed with such a good team?
• JONES: “I love it here. I love my teammates. I love the coaches, I love the school, the staff. It’s a good place to go.”
• Q: Your former teammates at Henryville struggled through a tough season. Not that you should feel any personal responsibility, but do you feel bad about watching your friends go winless?
• JONES: “Yeah. I do kind of feel bad for them because they struggled. But I do think the younger kids will come in and put in a lot of work this summer and they’ll do a lot better [next year].”
• Q: Do you follow [former Henryville teammate] Devin Richey at Austin? They’re still alive at South Ripley.
• JONES: “I talk to Devin almost every day. He says he’s doing good there and they’re having a good season. They have a good chance to win a sectional, too. I wish the best for him.”