MICHIGANTOWN — After a 1-1 day on Tuesday in the Clinton Central Tournament, Fountain Central boys basketball was back in action on for their third game in a 24-hour span as they concluded the tournament by taking on the Carroll Cougars in the 5th place game. The Cougars and Mustangs have some recent history as the two teams met up in last year’s sectional where the Mustangs almost pulled off a major upset in a 46-44 loss. This time it was almost an exact replica of a year ago as FC found themselves down by as many as 15 points late in the third quarter but rallied all the way back just to fall by a single point as Carroll hung on for a 58-57 win.
A 12-0 run by the Cougars gave them a 46-31 lead in the final seconds of the third, however FC didn’t back down and used a 9-0 run of their own to cut the lead to just 50-45 with 3:49 to play. The Mustangs needed stops on defense but the Cougars got to the foul line and made just enough free-throws to seal the deal as Chris Huerta made 1-2 with 7.2 seconds remaining to give Carroll a 58-54 lead. Will Harmon drilled a long range three at the buzzer as the Mustangs came up one point short.
“You have to do the little things extraordinary well especially against really good teams like this,” Fountain Central coach Greg Dean said. “In that first half all of the 50/50 balls, balls on the floor, and offensive rebounds were going their way. Then they would score a three off of that to really build their momentum. In that second quarter (23-9 Carroll), we got a little bit too fast and didn’t use clock like we needed to Everyday and every game is a learning experience for us and we’ll learn from this one for sure.”
The Mustangs were battling foul trouble to their top players for most of the game as both Mason Larkin and Isaac Gayler ended up fouling out. Harmon was forced to the bench in the third as he had three fouls of his own. In the first half Carroll also made 6-17 threes. They ended the game making just one in the second half as they went 7-25 from behind the arc.
“Our guys battled like crazy in that fourth quarter,” Dean said. “We did two or three things defensively that we haven’t done much of far in that second half and that’s a big credit to our guys for taking what we wanted to do and running with it. We got great opportunities to get back in the game and most times when you give a good team like that a 15 point lead, they run away with it.”
With the loss Fountain Central placed sixth out of eight teams at the Clinton Central Tournament with a 1-2 record. The two losses are to two very good teams in North Judson and the Cougars who as of yesterday entered the Top 10 in Class 2A. While it wasn’t the outcome the Dean on the Mustangs were hoping for, they played their best competition of the season and proved that they can hang with some tough opponents.
“As a team we sat down a couple day ago and had a discussion on why this tournament was important for us,” Dean noted. “The fact that we got to play two outstanding teams is only going to make us better down the stretch. The focus for us isn’t on today, it’s about the end of February when tournament time rolls around and what we can do to be successful come then.”
Harmon led the Mustangs with 21 points in the loss. Owen Acton scored 11 off the Mustang bench with Luke Foxworthy scoring eight. Larkin added seven, Koby Wolf six, and Gayler four.
Griffin Viney led all scorers in the game with 23 points for the Cougars. Both Owen Duff and Jake Skinner added nine, Huerta eight, Austin Kuns five and Eli Harshbarger scored four.
Carroll improves to 7-2 with the win while the Mustangs fall to 8-2 on the season. FC will have some time off until Jan. 7 when they travel to North Putnam. That will begin a four game road trip for Fountain Central which will include games against South Vermillion, Crawfordsville, and Seeger.
“Everything starts to really ramp up now,” Dean said of the upcoming schedule. “We’re going to get these guys healthy first and foremost and give them some time off to rest. We have to comeback ready to go and I”m excited about practice next week because there’s so much stuff to learn and take away from this tournament.”