By JON REITER
Visiting Charlestown was competitive with Class 2A No. 5 Clarksville, but didn’t have enough firepower to match the Generals on Friday night. Clarksville captured a 61-49 win over the Pirates to remain undefeated on the season at 4-0.
“They are an improved team — very much so,” said Connell, who teaches health and physical education at Charlestown Middle School and is a former Pirates’ assistant coach. “This is a weird game for me, because I know those kids. It’s a conference win for us, and you take that, but Coach (Sean) Smith did a great job preparing them for us.”
The game began slowly, and Clarksville (2-0 Mid-Southern Conference) led Charlestown (2-1, 1-1 MSC) at the end of the first quarter, 8-7. The Generals took a 12-9 advantage early in the second quarter when Jermargio Smith scored an inside bucket off a nice feed inside by senior forward Aidan McEwen. But two baskets from Chris Braun and a short jumper from Aaron Daniel over the next 2:32 gave Charlestown a 15-12 lead.
The two squads continued to trade baskets throughout the remainder of the first half, and the score was knotted at 23 with less than a minute left when reserve center Bailey McEwen picked off a Charlestown pass and fed Austin Johnson for a layup with less than 30 seconds left. Clarksville led 25-23 at intermission.
Clarksville shooting guard Andrew Jones, a key scorer and defensive player for the Generals, was held out of most of the first half after he committed his second foul with less than a minute left in the first quarter.
But Jones made his presence felt quickly early in the second half, sinking back-to-back 3-point attempts for Clarksville. Jones’ second 3 gave the Generals a 33-23 lead with 4:54 remaining in the third quarter.
Jones added another 3-pointer late in the quarter, and the Generals led at the end of three periods, 44-35.
“You’ve kind of got to pick your poison with them,” Sean Smith said. “I think we did a good job on Jones in the first half, but they’re an explosive team and they have a lot of players who can score.”
Aidan McEwen led all scorers with 20 points and added 10 rebounds for the Generals. The senior forward collected his points in a variety of ways — putbacks, mid-range jumpers and at the free-throw line. His younger brother Calvin, a junior point guard, added 15 points and his night included 10-of-11 shooting from the free-throw line.
“They’re a veteran team, and I think they were just more determined than we were,” Sean Smith said. “Those McEwen brothers — especially Aidan — he got on the boards, scored in close, and we had a hard time answering that.”
The Generals effectively ended the contest with an 11-2 run that opened the fourth quarter and was capped by a 3-pointer by Calvin McEwen. After McEwen’s trey, the Generals led 55-37 with less than five minutes remaining.
Charlestown was able to narrow the gap to 10 at 59-49, after Daniel nailed a 3-pointer with 1:01 remaining. But the visitors simply ran out of time.
The Pirates received nice efforts from Daniel, who finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds; guard Justin Conrad, who nailed four 3-pointers and scored 12 points; Braun, who led the Pirates with 13 points and Wesley Sexton, who notched 11. But only one other Charlestown player scored.
Connell said he was pleased with the win. But he expressed his displeasure a few times over his squad’s efforts in blocking out the Pirate players off the boards, especially in the first half.
“It’s something you practice every day,” Connell said. “And because you practice it every day, you shouldn’t be surprised when you know it’s coming. You’ve got to block out before you can rebound. We’re not getting that right now.”
Clarksville will hit the road tonight to face another MSC foe when it plays Eastern. Charlestown will host MSC opponent Silver Creek on Tuesday night.