By GREG MENGELT
Clarksville has been tested plenty this season.
In a three-day span, the Class 2A No. 2 Generals beat defending Class 4A regional champion Jeffersonville by 18 points then dropped a 79-76 decision against defending Class 2A champion Bowman Academy.
Clarksville later won at Corydon Central in overtime en route to its second-straight Mid-Southern Conference championship. It beat rival Providence three times, including a 41-32 victory to win consecutive sectional titles.
The Generals were certainly challenged on Saturday. They needed a pair of overtimes — 49-45 over Austin and 42-36 over Linton-Stockton — to capture their first regional championship in school history.
Clarksville knows it can stand up to some of the best basketball programs in Indiana. It will need to stand even taller in order to earn a berth in the Class 2A state finals a week from Saturday.
In order to do so, the Generals will have to get by Park Tudor in Saturday’s semistate. The Panthers come into Seymour ranked No. 1 in Class 2A with a gaudy resume of its own. The Panthers have wins over Lawrence North, North Central, Roncalli, Warren Central, Scecina twice and a pair of blowout wins over Crispus Attucks and Speedway in the regional to their credit. Not to mention an impressive overtime loss at Indianapolis Tech.
As good as Jeff, Providence, Corydon and Bowman are, Park Tudor may be the Generals’ biggest obstacle yet.
“I feel like we were supposed to win the regional, but we’re the underdogs now,” Clarksville coach Jason Connell said. “But we’ve proved that we can play with anybody. Park Tudor is another level up. This is semistate. We’re playing the best of the best.”
“They’re the No. 1 team in the state,” Clarksville senior Andrew Jones. “We’ve been hearing a lot about them.”
Future Xavier Musketeer and Mr. Basketball candidate Trevon Bluiett will be the best player the Generals have seen all season. The 6-foot-5 Blueitt is the sixth-leading scorer in Indiana history — behind only Damon Bailey, Marion Pierce, Deshaun Thomas, Brody Boyd and Rick Mount — and his 35.6 points per game is also sixth-best in state history.
Clarksville’s top athlete, Marquise Parrish, will draw the assignment of guarding Blueitt, who scored a game-high 26 points as a sophomore in Park Tudor’s 62-49 win over Providence in the Southport Semistate in 2012.
“Marquise is a competitor,” Connell said. “We told him [Blueitt] is a great player — he’s a Mr. Basketball candidate — so he’s going to score some points. If he does, so be it. He’s up for it. He’s such a good athlete and has guarded a lot of good people.”
“Marquise is the best defender that’s probably been here for a while, and he’s definitely the best athlete we have on our team,” Jones said. “I’ve got faith in him.”
Parrish knows he has a tall task.
“I know he’s good and he’s going to score some points, but I’m going to do everything I can to [keep him in check],” Parrish said. “I have to apply a lot of pressure to him and be physical with him.”
Connell said Blueitt isn’t a one-man team.
“He creates for them and they have some guys who can shoot it,” Connell said. “They’re scoring 80-something points per game, so he’s not the only player. We’re going to know where their shooters are.”
Stopping Park Tudor will be one thing. Scoring will be another. In what amounted to nine quarters in the regional, Clarksville only scored 91 points. The Generals will have to be better offensively to have a chance to advance.
“I think the key for us is we’re going to have to shoot the ball well,” Connell said, “which we haven’t done lately.”
“We need to crash the boards and play good defense, I think that will be the key to the game,” senior Ahem Yennes said. “We have to keep rising.”
CLASS 2A SEMISTATE
CLARKSVILLE (23-2) vs. PARK TUDOR (22-4)
Location: Seymour (Lloyd Scott Gymnasium, capacity 8,110)
Day/Time: Saturday, 3:15 p.m.
Class 2A Rankings: Park Tudor No. 1, Clarksville No. 2.
Computer-based Sagarin ratings: Park Tudor No. 5 (No. 1 Class 2A); Clarksvsille No. 80 (No. 8 Class 2A).
Radio: WXVW-1450 AM.