LINDEN — Friday night marked the first county matchup of the winter sports season as the Southmont boys basketball team made the short drive to take on county rival North Montgomery. Early on the host Chargers came out of the gates firing and not backing down from their county rival. North Montgomery led 13-12 after a quarter of play and trailed by just two at 23-21 at halftime. However Southmont outscored the Chargers a combined 36-16 in the second half to be able to cruise to a county and conference victory by a final score of 59-37.
Leading the way for the Mounties as he has so far in the early part of the season was senior Avery Saunders who ended with a game-high 21 points and snagged eight rebounds. Eight of his 21 came in the third quarter as he single handily scored eight straight points for the Mounties. Carson Chadd ended with 12 points and nine rebounds and Logan Oppy also had 12 for the Mounties in the win.
“Coach Arnold had his guys ready to play tonight,” Southmont coach Jake Turner said. “I though we got away from our game plan a little bit in the first half which was to crash the offensive boards. We settled for too many threes there also and that’s exactly what they wanted us to do and they handled our pressure defense well. We talked about at halftime about not being too emotional and being better mentally and we did a much better job of that in the second half.”
A quick 5-0 spurt by Oppy allowed Southmont (3-0, 1-0 SAC) to build a seven point lead and then the Mounties never looked back after that point. The Chargers (0-2, 0-1 SAC) were able to stay in the game due to their success from behind the arc. Jarrod Kirsch knocked down three three-pointers in the first half, then cooled off in the second. He led the Chargers in scoring with 12 points in the loss. His brother Jakob Kirsch joined him with ten points, and Kelby Harwood added six. Despite the loss, North Montgomery coach Chad Arnold loved the energy and competitive spirit that his team showed.
“We’re competing hard and we showed that in the first half,” he said. “They (Southmont) have three guys in Oppy, Chadd, and Saunders who are very difficult to guard. Right now its a process for us and we’ll get there. We had a lot of good looks all night long. I think we may have worn down a little bit in the second half, but I was proud of our guys tonight.”
A key offensive adjustment at halftime for the Mounties was to use their athletic ability to their advantage and get the ball to the basket. Whether that was Saunders, Chadd or even Oppy taking it to the basket, Southmont was able to beat their defender off the dribble.
“We knew that when drove it to the basket that their help was going to have to come from somewhere,” Turner said. “We did a good job of finding the open man after that and playing under control and also rebounded on offense a lot better as well in the second half.”
In a county matchup regardless of the sport, neither team needs any added motivation to come out and be ready for the game. That was certainly the case for the Chargers as they didn’t back down from the challenge and gave the Mounties all they could handle in the first half.
“You can see that we’re getting better and the guys came out to compete tonight,” Arnold said. “Now we have to follow this up and start to string these together. We’re a young team and the guys are still learning as they go so sometimes that can be a difficult thing to ask for. Tonight they knew it was a county and conference game and they wanted to come out and win.”
Saunders continues to lead the way for Southmont to begin the season as with his 21 point performance, he’s scored 20-plus points in each of the Mounties first three games. Turner is seeing his lead player turn into a force for teams night in and night out.
“I talked with coach Chadd about this and I think he (Saunders) has the potential to be one of if not the best player in the conference,” Turner said of his senior forward. “He scores and rebounds every single night for us when we need him to. He’s one of those guys whose going to be around the ball no matter where it’s at. Along with him, all of our three upperclassmen with Carson and Logan we feel like are all-conference guys, and they stepped up in the second half and led us to another win.”
Both the Mounties and the Chargers will be back in action on Saturday as Southmont travels to take on Cloverdale, while the Chargers make the short drive to Veedersburg for a battle with the Fountain Central Mustangs (3-3)
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