Boys Basketball Sectional

Athenians defense leads to sectional win over Bulldogs


DANVILLE — Three defensive stops to start the game and six strong defensive minutes to finish spelled a 57-40 first-round sectional win for Crawfordsville over Monrovia Tuesday night.

Opening the 3A sectional with the win over the Bulldogs, the Athenians move on to semifinal action Friday night when they face Sagamore Conference foe Tri-West. They are now 9-14 on the season, but most importantly, 1-0 in the tournament.

They are also now an experienced postseason team.

“I told the guys before the game that except for one player, they were all making their first sectional appearance,” said Crawfordsville coach David Pierce. “I’m proud of how our guys fought. We did some good things defensively.”

Good things like starting the game on a 9-0 run that included keeping Monrovia off the board for nearly three minutes, and forcing the Bulldogs to miss their first eight shots.

That cushion proved to be exactly what the tournament doctor ordered, as the team in blue never let the lead get to less than five points.

The finished the game by denying the Bulldogs a field goal for the last 6:20 of the game, capping the defense off with a 6-0 run late to ice things, and hitting enough free throws to keep things out of touch.

“We played great on-the-ball defense,” Pierce said. “Alec (Saidian) was really effective on their high ball screen-it backed their big guys off, and on lots of possessions we stayed in front of the ball, got a stop and didn’t foul. Ethan (McLemore) did a great job on (Monrovia point guard Jayden) Jones. He cut the head off the snake, because Jones couldn’t drive and kick out to their three-point shooters.”

The Bulldogs, who averaged 20 three-point attempt per game coming in, managed only a dozen for the game, and made only two-none in the second half. Shooting 41 percent for the season,  Monrovia was held to 26 percent by the Athenians defense on a 12-of-50 night. Jones finished with nine points, all scored in the first half.

The defensive stops negated any comeback attempts or thoughts, and the Crawfordsville offense did their work effectively enough.

Shooting just under 50 percent (21-of-43) from the field, the Athenians got two scorers in double-digits and overcame a 21-turnover night.

Leading the way was sophomore center Alec Saidian, who hit seven of his nine shots, three of his four three throws, grabbed eight rebounds and led the team with 17 points-11 coming in the fourth quarter.

“And he got hurt on the first play of the game,” Pierce said of his big guy in the middle. “He got a knee or leg in the upper thigh, and it was pretty sore early. We told him there was no one else, and hit competitive juices kept him going. I’m super proud of his efforts, and also the efforts of guys like Cale Coursey and others. We survive and advance.”

Coursey had the only Athenians double-double, as the senior was out of the blocks fast with eight first-quarter points. He finished with 15 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. He had four assists and three steals to add to his stat line.

Crawfordsville also got big contributions off the bench.

“Mason (McCarty) gave us an extra ball handler against their press and made some passes,” Pierce said of the freshman who had three points, but a pair of assists and a pair of steals. “McLemore (six points, two steals and two assists) had a good night leading our transition, and Drake (Burris) hit some huge shots and was  very good under pressure.”

Burris finished with nine points, hitting his last three shots.

The Bulldogs were led in scoring by Hayden McCloud, as the sophomore had 15 points and was game-best with 12 rebounds. Monrovia had 16 offensive rebounds, including a couple possessions with three or four, but could manage only six second-chance points, as the Crawfordsville defense came through time and again. Monrovia finishes its season 6-18.

“We’ve got to get better with some of our fundamentals,” Pierce said, trying not to look at the 21 turnover stat that led to a dozen Bulldogs points.

The win sets up a Sagamore Conference rematch between the Athenians and the Bruins. Tri-West took a 48-44 win in February.

“It will be a completely different game,” Pierce said. “They know us, we know them. It will be a lot more of a chess match.”

It will be the fifth sectional tournament meeting between the two teams in the last eight years. The Bruins have won three of the four games, including a win last season.

The game Friday is the first of the two semifinal games. The second will feature Danville (68-61 winners over Western Boone) against Lebanon. The winners will face off Saturday for the championship.