Basketball Preview

Athenians, Mounties twin-bill highlights busy weekend

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Crawfordsville and Southmont will meet on Saturday evening with Journal Review County Chase points on the line. It will be the second meeting for both the girls’ and boys’ teams. The Mounties took down the Athenians 53-48 in the opening round of the girls Sugar Creek Classic back in November, while the Athenians dominated the boys contest just two weeks ago at the Sugar Creek Classic, 84-43.

Southmont coach Jake Turner was disappointed in the earlier season loss, and is hopeful his 2-9 Mounties can overcome that 41-point defeat.

“I was disappointed with our mental toughness and consistent effort in the Sugar Creek game,” he said. “We have to do a better job of staying locked in and focused on each individual possession and we can’t let one end of the floor affect the other.”

Before the Mounties face the 7-5 Athenians, they will have the task of traveling to Class A No. 10 and the 8-4 Covington Trojans on Friday night.

“This is a really tough challenge this weekend against two excellent teams in Covington and Crawfordsville,” Turner said. “They are similar in that they both have multiple shooters and very skilled offensive players and they try to speed you up and turn you over defensively, so we are working on taking care of the ball and taking great shots on offense and then playing great transition defense and making multiple closeouts to their shooters.”

The Athenians are coming off a 53-50 loss to McCutcheon on Tuesday, and will face 6-7 Fountain Central on Friday before the rematch with the Mounties. Coach David Pierce knows defense will be the key if the Athenians are to continue being successful.

“Our confidence is hung solely on our defense,” he said. “South will be our fourth game in a week. When we played last, we held Southmont to their lowest field goal %, 3-point %, and forced 20+ turnovers. We don’t expect to have the same outcome. Southmont will make adjustments and we will need to make our own. It’s a big county and conference game. South will give us their best four quarters and we will too.”

Crawfordsville only allows 51.7 points per game defensively, while Southmont is scoring at just a 51.2 points per game mark.

The Athenians, led by Jesse Hall’s 13.4 points per game have faced injuries and other unforeseen circumstances that have forced them to make changes to the lineup, and Pierce is starting to see the potential of his team.

“Last Saturday (A 58-53 win at Victory College Prep), we won with one player on the court that was part of our top five starters in June,” he said. “Four of our top-12 players were JV starters at the beginning of the season, and now they are in the mix and/or starting. We love where our team is right now. They are coming together as a family and each player is starting to accept and perfect their role.”

As for Fountain Central coach Phil Shabi, he is excited at the opportunity to face a quality opponent in Crawfordsville on Friday, before facing a Wabash River Conference foe in South Vermillion (5-8) on Saturday.

“We will balance our team-specific practice time by preparing for both Crawfordsville and South Vermillion,” he said. “We focus on a couple of things for each team, but try not to overwhelm the players with too much information. Our biggest focus is always improving the things that we do well that gives us the best chance to be competitive on a nightly basis.”

Shabi hopes the Mustangs will compete better against Crawfordsville than they did against their last Sagamore Conference opponent, which was a 66-41 loss to Western Boone just before Christmas.

“Crawfordsville is a top-level opponent and playing them at this point of the season gives us a good gauge on our progress as a team,” he said. “The last time we played a quality opponent (Western Boone) we did not have a good showing. We are hoping, as always, to show improvement and to continue to get better as the season progresses.”

North Montgomery at Lebanon

North Montgomery’s boys’ basketball team will take its 7-6 record on the road in the Sagamore Conference to face an 8-6 Lebanon team.

First-year coach Chad Arnold knows that Carson Burtron’s 15.8 points per game, and Michael Reese’s 12.5 points a night will be a handful for the Chargers.

“Lebanon is a good basketball team that plays really hard and are physical. They are led by Carson Burtron who can do a little of everything,” he said. “He is averaging about 16 points a game, six rebounds, and five assists.  Michael Reese is a really good shooter that is shooting 47% from behind the arc. They also have Luke Ferrell who is averaging around nine points a game. Their other guys are also solid that surround these three. We are working hard this week on our defense and defending their ball screen continuity and some of their action they like to run.”

The Chargers will look to stop a six-game losing streak to the Tigers, and capture their first win at Lebanon since 2008.

Girls Basketball

Not only will Southmont hope to secure its first winning season since 2017 with a win on Saturday, as they take a 10-7 record into Thursday nights matchup with Frankfort, but the Mounties are in search of their third-straight Montgomery County title. Southmont beat North Montgomery 55-45 earlier this month.

“Another county title will show our girls what it takes/means to be a great program,” Southmont coach Dustin Oakley said. “Our teams wouldn’t be successful in the area and overall if we didn’t have the commitment in the summer. Our players work tremendously hard to commit a lot of their June to multiple sports. I think the players are starting to see results in our regular season due to their work in the offseason.”

Crawfordsville enters Saturdays matchup with a 4-15 record on the season, but first-year coach Tyler Smith knows it will be a much different game than when the two county rivals faced off in November.

“We’re looking forward to the challenge,” he said. “Southmont has a strong team with size and good shooters. We will need to execute and rebound to give ourselves an opportunity. County games are a lot of fun and we’ll be ready to battle it out and see what happens. Both teams are different from our first meeting, so we’re excited to see how it plays out.”

Sidney Veatch leads the Mounties with 12.8 points per game and 11.5 rebounds a contest, while Lauren Kellerman is averaging 15.9 points per game for the Athenians.

North Montgomery will take a 9-11 overall record and six-game losing streak into a contest with 11-8 Lebanon on Friday night.

Alexis Wines leads the Tigers with 10.3 points per game, while the Chargers are still without the services of leading scorer Katie Rice. Maddie Moseley is averaging 7.4 points per game.

North Montgomery is looking for its first win at Lebanon since 2010.

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