The Clarksville boys’ basketball team made history when it secured Clarksville’s first regional championship with wins over Austin and Linton-Stockton on Saturday at the Class 2A Southridge Regional in Huntingburg.
But the Generals didn’t just make school history. According to Indiana basketball historian John Harrell, no team has won a regional crown with two overtime victories in at least 20 years, which means that Clarksville’s the first to do it in the class basketball era. Harrell couldn’t say if it had ever been done.
“I guess it’s pretty cool for our community,” said Clarksville coach Jason Connell when presented with the stat. “Whether it’s two overtimes or however you do it, it’s great for our community because it’s never been done before.”
The Class 2A No. 2 Generals (23-2) played more minutes than any team in the state on Saturday. But Connell’s not concerned about that impacting his team’s chances against Class 2A No. 1 Park Tudor (22-4) at the Class 2A Seymour Semistate this coming weekend.
“We’re fine. At this time of year, you rest a little bit for two or three days after,” Connell said. “We came in [Monday] and did a lot of shooting drills and started watching some game film on Park Tudor to just prepare.”
Connell said the team’s main concern is making sure the team’s players are all healthy for next Saturday’s semistate. He said Generals’ senior guard Andrew Jones is back to full mobility after suffering a hip injury a few weeks back.
“I’m proud of the guys,” Connell said. “This team has been resilient, and to win two close games that like says a lot about their character.”
— Staff Writer Matt Koesters
DRAGONS EXPECTED TO BE GOOD NEXT YEAR
Though Silver Creek’s postseason run came to an end on Saturday, there was plenty to take from the 70-60 loss to Class 3A No. 1 Greensburg in the Class 3A Washington Regional, played at the famed Hatchet House.
The main lesson?
This may only be the beginning for a young Dragon team that stunned fans across the state by knocking off three ranked teams to win the sectional, and then leading 26-1 Greensburg at halftime in the regional.
While it was the final game for three Silver Creek seniors — Zach Davidson, Brooks Howell and Shae Durham — the junior class is deep and skilled enough to make many observers believe it will no longer be an underdog next season.
The starting lineup will remain mostly intact, with only Davidson departing. Nick Tinsley (10 points in the regional semifinal), Jake Steele and Gabe Bauer (18 points against Greensburg) will be returning as seniors, and sophomore Christian Reed — often the focal point of the offense — will be back for his junior season.
“We don’t want to be a one-hit wonder,” said Reed after the Greensburg game. “The juniors have to step up and me, going into my junior year, has to step up with them.”
The phrase “one-hit wonder” was one repeated often around Silver Creek’s camp during the postseason journey. Next year’s Dragons (15-9) are already aware of the pressure to perform, as their role switches from underdog to possible favorite.
Down the line, nearly every Silver Creek player mentioned the three departed seniors as the reason for the culture switch.
“We just have to make sure we have the leadership that this year’s seniors gave,” Bauer said. “Whatever we do next season, we’ll do it for them.”
— Staff correspondent Matthew Cress
BULLDOGS PLAYED LOTS OF ZONE VERSUS NORTH
For most of the Class 4A Seymour Sectional and Saturday’s Class 4A Seymour Regional semifinal against Evansville Central, New Albany primarily played man-to-man defense.
But in Saturday night’s 46-45 overtime loss to Bloomington North in the Seymour Regional final, the Bulldogs used a 2-3 zone defense for most of the contest.
The main reason New Albany coach Jim Shannon went to the zone was early foul trouble.
During the first quarter, the Cougars penetrated several times into New Albany’s man-to-man. As a result, the Bulldogs committed six fouls in the opening quarter and North made 7-of-8 free throws. New Albany (18-7) led 15-14 at the end of the stanza.
Late in the quarter, Shannon went to the zone and it forced the Cougars (16-8) to take perimeter shots instead of using the dribble drive.
The zone prevented North from hitting 3-pointers for the majority of the game. The Cougars went 2-of-12 from behind the arc for the first three quarters.
“We discovered we were pretty good at this and they’re not making them,” Shannon said. “I think changing to the 2-3 zone was the best thing we did all night. They were just having their way with us. They were driving on us and driving on us. We were fouling and they got to the free-throw line, so we went from a man-to-man to a 2-3 zone to keep them off the free-throw line. Plus we were getting in foul trouble.”
But North found a way to nail 3s in the fourth quarter and overtime, connecting on 4-of-10 3-pointers in the final 12 minutes. That included a buzzer-beating 3 by the Cougars’ Tyler Truesdel to tie the game at 38 at the end of regulation and the eventual game-winning 3 by Malik Laffoon with four seconds left in OT.
“A couple of times, we just quit playing,” Shannon said.
The Bulldogs continued to use the zone as their fouls increased. New Albany senior guard Leondre McBirth committed his fourth foul at the 7:46 mark of the fourth quarter. He sat on the bench until the 3:55 mark of the period, and he played with four fouls the rest of the game.
Plus toward the end of the game, New Albany’s Javen Reeves, DeAnthony Warren and Nick White each had three fouls.
— Staff writer Kevin Harris
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
LEONDRE MCBIRTH, NEW ALBANY
McBirth averaged 20.5 points in Saturday’s Class 4A Seymour Regional at Scott Gym.
The 6-foot-1 senior guard scored 19 points in the Bulldogs’ 47-45 semifinal victory over Evansville Central. He followed that up with a game-high 22 points in New Albany’s 46-45 overtime loss to Bloomington North in the championship game.
McBirth also had a game-high eight rebounds and four assists versus the Cougars.