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February 28, 2014

H.S. BOYS’ BASKETBALL: Highlanders start winning streak

Floyd wins second straight, 81-74 over Charlestown

CHARLESTOWN — It may have taken all season, but the Floyd Central boys’ basketball team finally has its first official winning streak.

On the heels of a 69-67 overtime win over Hoosier Hills Conference rival Jennings County earlier in the week, the Highlanders took a less dramatic route to victory this time out. Floyd blitzed host Charlestown in the first quarter, hitting seven 3-pointers and outscoring the Pirates 28-12 en route to an 81-74 road triumph on Friday night. It was the Highlanders’ second straight win after their eight-game losing skid ended against the Panthers on Tuesday.

“We’re maturing a little bit,” said Floyd assistant coach Brett Eades. “We showed that by withstanding every run they made. We’re going to take these last two games and run with it and see where we go from here.”

The Highlander backcourt of juniors Myles Ervin and J.C. Kinnaird was superb throughout, combining for 48 points. It was Ervin who, early on, looked like he might knock the Pirates (5-15) out singlehandedly with four 3s in the first eight minutes alone. He finished with a game-high 26 points.

Kinnaird was steady throughout, seeming to come up with big plays in the biggest moments. He had 22 points, including a 3 with 6:14 left in regulation after Charlestown had closed to within 60-57, which is as close as the Pirates managed to get, although they did it on several occasions.

After all, Charlestown had its own dynamic duo to counter Ervin and Kinnaird.

Floyd’s emphasis on the perimeter opened things up for Hunter Crace and Tanner Wesp, Charlestown’s dual six-footers. The pair combined for 30 points and had a hand in each of the Pirates’ resurrections from big deficits. Tristan Chester, who missed half the season with an injury, also had his best game since returning to the lineup, scoring 16 points and knocking down two 3s in the final two minutes to keep Charlestown within striking distance.

“You just dig such a big hole and it’s so hard to get out of,” said Charlestown coach Sean Smith, who hasn’t knocked off the Highlanders since 2008. “That was the difference. We let their pressure knock us out of our offense. If we don’t do that, who knows what might happen?”

Ervin’s back-to-back 3s pushed the Floyd edge to 22-6 and it looked like the Pirates would never recover in their home finale. But Charlestown rallied back behind Chester and Crace to score the first 10 points of the second quarter to cut the gap to 28-22.

As it did all night, the Highlanders took back control with a 3 — this one from Tyler Kimm — to go ahead 33-22. Floyd would have taken a double-digit lead into the intermission, but Charlestown fought back with an outburst from Chester and a basket from Wesp to pull within nine, at 38-29.

Floyd Central again nearly applied the knockout blow midway through the third period, getting another 3 from Kimm and consecutive layups off steals from Ervin to take a 51-37 edge. It was indicative of the havoc caused by Ervin and Kinnaird, who forced the Pirates into five turnovers in the first three minutes of the second half.

The Highlanders still held a big lead — at 53-39 — when 6-3 junior Mike Lewis fouled out with 3:53 to go in the third period. With the middle opened up, Charlestown went to work, with Korey Harris leading the way. Harris, a sophomore who, like Chester, missed much of the season, rallied the Pirates with seven fast points, including a layup after stripping a Floyd ballhandler at midcourt and an acrobatic runner in the lane. Suddenly, the Floyd lead had been cut to 55-50, and only another clutch 3 from Kimm salvaged any momentum for the Highlanders heading into the final frame.

After Kinnaird’s 3 made it 63-57, the Pirates would again manage to challenge for the lead, but their best chance slipped away after Kimm’s final 3-point bomb from the wing made it 71-64 with 2:51 remaining. Charlestown missed several good opportunities to pull closer, and Ervin made them pay from the foul line, where he went 8 for 8 over the course of the fourth quarter.

“We were trying to get the ball inside, but we just had to get the ball to the guys with the hot hand,” Eades said. “Give them a lot of credit, they fought very hard. We’re proud to get out of here with a victory.”

While Floyd celebrated the start of a winning streak it can only hope continues into its Class 4A Seymour Sectional matchup with county rival New Albany on Tuesday, the Pirates were left still hoping to pick up two straight wins this season. That quest will start with Salem in the Class 3A North Harrison Sectional, also on Tuesday.

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