Boys Basketball

Athenians down Mustangs in physical game

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VEEDERSBURG - A rough and tumble Friday night went Crawfordsville’s way in a 38-32 boys basketball win over Fountain Central.

Both teams, with big Saturday matchups, expended a lot of energy in the game, which saw the Athenians trail twice early, but never after that, and move to 9-3 on the season.

The Mustangs went toe-to-toe with the bigger visitors, but in the end, couldn’t get a couple shots to fall late that would have energized a comeback run. They fall to 8-7.

“Fountain Central plays hard,” C’ville coach David Pierce said. “They have a great culture over here and Coach (Greg) Dean has done a really good job over here. This is such a trap game for us and we missed some bunnies early. Our defense really stepped up in the second half, our bench was fantastic and we got some free throws late. I’m super proud of our effort tonight.”

Coach Dean was no less pleased with the effort of his squad.

“It’s always disappointing to lose,” the first-year coach said, “but we played so hard, and I’m so proud of our guys. They did absolutely everything we asked them to do the entire game. We withstood Crawfordsville’s pressure, we guarded really hard, we made a lot of good passes and we had a lot of good looks. We just missed some good, makeable shots. David does a great job with his guys and it was just a dogfight tonight.”

The Athenians used their big game to control the first half, and the Mustangs took away that weapon for most of the second.

Mekhi Wallace, who missed school most of the week due to non-Covid illness, made his bunnies with a 5-of-6 effort in the first two quarters. Three of those buckets were put-backs on offensive rebounds.

The senior had 11 points and seven rebounds at halftime, but was limited in touches the last two, as he finished with 16 points and finished his double-double with 10 boards. He also had three assists, two steals and a block.

“We thought we were going to have to really limit his minutes,” Pierce noted, “but he had the hot hand. He was great tonight, but we got some real big games from other guys too.”

The first of those names that comes to mind is Gavin Kenny.

The senior hit four straight free throws in the last :41 to break the FC comeback effort. Ziair Morgan hit two more from the line, as the Athenians weathered a 5-0 Mustangs run that got the score to 30-27 and scored eight of their own.

“Gavin gave us phenomenal minutes,” Pierce said. “We also got really good minutes from a lot of guys down the bench.”

Morgan finished with 10 points as the Athenians were 13-of-38 from the field, 2-of-7 from long range and 10-of-13 from the line. They won the rebound battle 28-24. Ian Hensley had six boards, and the visitors had 11 turnovers. They scored 20 point off of 20 Mustangs miscues.

FC was led in scoring by Mason Larkin, as the junior had 10 points. Isaac Gayler added eight.

The Mustangs were 11-of-33 from the field, 2-of-10 from deep and 8-of-10 from the line. Gayler’s eight rebounds was team best.

“We bothered Crawfordsville with our length in the second half,” Dean said of the adjustments. “We did a better job of rebounding in the second half - their offensive boards cost us a little in the first. “We got behind Wallace defensively and then on offense we really got some good post-entry passes and ran our motion offense well. We got good looks, and shots we wanted. They just didn’t fall.”

Both teams have to find the energy for a big Saturday game.

The Mustangs travel to Clinton Prairie to take on the 12-2 Gophers.

“They are big and physical,” Dean said. “We haven’t hung our heads all season. I don’t see us doing that Saturday.”

The Athenians head to Southmont to take on the Mounties in what is not only a routine tail-twisting rivalry game, but it is South’s 50th anniversary celebration, and a hug crowd is expected.

“Our seniors do all the little things,” Pierce said of the Sugar Creek championship game rematch, won by the Athenians. “South had a big game (a loss at Covington) tonight, so both teams will be tired, but Coach Turner and his staff will have them ready. Both teams will have new things to try and counter each other with. What I know is that our top seven guys have a cumulative GPA of 3.77, so that allows us to do a lot of strategizing and adapting/changing. We are looking forward to the challenge.”

The boys game follows the girls contest, which starts at 5:30  pm.

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