Fountain Central will travel to Southmont tonight to renew an old Wabash River Conference rivalry.
With both teams coming off conference losses, the Mounties and Mustangs are both hoping to turn a corner entering the final stretch of the regular season.
“At this point in the season it is about two things for us,” Fountain Central coach Phil Shabi said. “Making sure that our bodies and minds are as fresh and healthy as possible, and staying locked in on what it takes to be successful against specific opponents.”
Fountain Central is 9-11 on the season, and has experienced peaks and valleys, most recently a 62-34 WRC loss to Covington. Andrew Shabi leads the Mustangs into Southmont with a team-high 14.9 points per game in just 11 outings. Coach Shabi knows it will take a strong offensive outing to top the Mounties.
“Southmont has improved a lot during the last half of this season,” he said. “The keys for us are going to be handling their defensive pressure and making them play the way that we want them to play on the offensive end. Taking away their strengths and making them beat you with their weaknesses, especially on the road, is going to be vital for us.”
Southmont enters at 5-12, and coming off a 69-49 Sagamore Conference loss to Tri-West on Tuesday. Mounties coach Jake Turner has a similar philosophy this time of year as Shabi — improve each day.
“Fountain Central is a team that has some talented, experienced kids mixed in with some young guys,” Turner said. “At this point in the season, we just want to improve each and every day. Whether that is a practice or a game or even a film session. We know that we have to play extremely hard, take care of the basketball and take great shots, and defend and rebound to win games, and we will have to do all of those things against Fountain Central.”
Austin Bowman is the lone Mountie with a scoring average in double-figures, with 10.7 points per game. Southmont is averaging just 51 points per game, and allowing 60.6.
“They definitely like to shoot the three,” Turner said about the Mustangs. “As many of their guys are capable. We will need to have a good understanding of their personnel and our game plan and then we will need great box outs, as long shots mean long rebounds. We can’t afford to give them extra possessions.”
Fountain Central has 127 made 3-point field goals on the season, including 31 each from Shabi and freshman Mason Larkin. The Mustangs are averaging 47 points per game.
North Montgomery is 9-9 on the season, but in desperate need of a Sagamore Conference victory. The Chargers are 0-5 in the SAC this season, and have won just two league games since the 2015-16 season.
North welcomes Frankfort (3-12, 0-5) on Friday night.
“It’s a conference game and we need this one,” first-year coach Chad Arnold said. “We just need to keep building on what we have been doing. We have been playing good basketball, we just haven’t found ways to win.”
North Montgomery ended a four-game skid with a win over Attica on Feb. 1 and defeated Benton Central 58-42 on Tuesday night. The Hot Dogs have lost three-straight.
Jaron Bradford leads the Chargers with 11.3 points per game, while Trey Frazier scores at a 14.2 points per game clip for Frankfort.
Crawfordsville has won two-straight games to improve its record to 11-7 on the season and 3-2 in Sagamore Conference play, and the Athenians get another shot at the league opponent with a road game at Tri-West on Friday.
Tri-West is 8-8 on the season and 3-2 in the SAC, but have won four out of its last six, including a 69-49 win over Southmont on Tuesday.
Taylor Gardner leads the Bruins with 15.4 points per game, while Luke Robertson adds 10.6. Jesse Hall leads the Athenians with 15.1, and Karsten Williamson adds 10.6 a game.
Including Tri-West, the Athenians remaining four opponents have a combined record of 53-18, and coach David Pierce hopes this stretch will help Crawfordsville prepare for the state tournament.
“We make it really difficult at the end to prepare for the sectional,” he said, following the Athenians 67-60 win over Western Boone on Tuesday.
Pierce hopes a mini win streak will help with confidence heading into Friday night.
“It’s definitely a confidence booster,” he said. “It’s key for our guys to realize that it’s going to continue to get harder every game from this point out.”