By JON REITER
Fresh off the glow of winning its first sectional championship in 27 years, the Clarksville boys’ basketball team has gotten back to business this week leading up to its regional matchup Saturday in the Class 2A Southridge Regional against the Linton-Stockton Miners.
“To be honest with you, it’s been a weird feeling,” Clarksville coach Jason Connell said. “Winning the sectional was a great thing. But the kids aren’t satisfied. They’re still hungry. But it’s been 27 years [Clarksville last won a sectional in 1986]. I want these kids to enjoy it a little bit. It’s been a long time and the community deserves a chance to embrace this and enjoy it as well.”
The Class 2A No. 8 Generals, who defeated Paoli last Saturday in the Class 2A Crawford County Sectional to advance to Huntingburg, will face a tall order in Class 2A No. 10 Linton’s front line of junior center Austin Karazia and senior forward Dess Fougerousse.
Karazia, a 6-foot-8 junior, averages more than 20 points and eight rebounds a game. He was a first-team all-state performer at quarterback for the Miners during the fall football campaign. And Fougerousse is Linton’s all-time leading scorer going into Saturday’s game against the Generals and matches Karazia’s output with 20 points and eight rebounds a game as well.
“They’ve got good size,” Connell said. “We’ve kind of faced that in the last week or two, and the way you have to counteract that is with speed. That’s what we’ve done all year. We’ve played 23 games — we’re not going to go doing anything different — we’ll keep playing to our strengths.”
Senior forward Aidan McEwen agreed with that assessment. In winning games against Class 2A No. 3 Providence and Paoli, the Generals faced off against teams with much more sizable front lines.
But neither of those teams displayed the quickness or tenacity the Generals did in capturing the sectional crown. Junior guards Calvin McEwen and Andrew Jones were dominant in the three wins during the sectional, averaging 13 and 14 points per game, respectively. Clarksville’s tallest front-line players are Aidan McEwen and senior foward Austin Johnson, who both stand 6-2.
“I know they might be the biggest team we’ve faced, but we’ve faced some big teams,” said Aidan McEwen, who averages 13 points and seven rebounds a game for the Clarksville. “We’re going to have to rely on our quickness. That’s our advantage on them.”
Connell said the Generals haven’t extensively evaluated No. 13 Perry Central (21-3) or Switzerland County (18-4), who play in the first game at 11 a.m. EST. Clarksville faces off against the Miners (21-3) in the second game at about 1 p.m.
“We’ve looked at them both a little bit,” he said. “But you can’t play the second game unless you win the first.”
SOUTHRIDGE REGIONAL STAFF PERSPECTIVES
Kevin Harris, Sports Reporter: “The Generals played the toughest schedule among the four teams in this regional and that should pay off for them on Saturday. If Clarksville continues to get great guard play, it has a great shot to win its first-ever regional championship.”
Matt Koesters, News Reporter: “Clarksville finally steps onto a bigger stage for the first time in more than two decades, but I'm not convinced they're ready for primetime. The Generals have good speed and great guard play, but the thing their lineup lacks is size. Linton-Stockton has it, and the Generals will have to make big plays to make up for their small stature if they hope to be playing on Saturday night.”
Jon Reiter, Sports Correspondent: “I thought Providence would defeat the Generals in the opening round of the Paoli sectional. I'm not picking against them again. In my mind, they're just too experienced, too skilled and just ready to take this regional. Will they advance any farther than Huntingburg? Who cares? Enjoy the ride, Clarksville fans.”
Mike Riley, Sports Correspondent: “Clarksville is jelling at the right time and has too many weapons. And the Providence victory sent their confidence off the charts. After the Generals defeat Linton-Stockton, they will turn back Switzerland County to advance to the semi-state.”
Ryan Ingram, Sports Correspondent: “Clarksville has the grit to get to the regional final, but the Generals run out of gas against Perry Central.”
Joseph Adams, Sports Correspondent: “Linton-Stockton has been playing their best basketball and although this regional is wide open with four good teams — with any of them with the possibility of winning — I feel that Linton is just the hot team right now, and they will continue to carry this in the regional.”