Fountain Central boys basketball is having a season for the ages. FC has climbed all the way to No. 2 in the Class A Poll and sits at 22-4 on the season. A single win would tie the school record for wins which was set by the 1990-91 team. After winning the first sectional title since 2015, the Mustangs are now set to play in the Frankfort Regional where they will take on the Liberty Christian Lions (15-9) who were the sectional champions of Sectional 55.
The Lions won their sectional a year ago and fell to Lafayette Central Catholic in the Regional Final. This season with the Regional being just one game, a single win puts either the Lions or the Mustangs in the semi-state round.
“When you get to this level, you’re going to play a good team no matter what,” Fountain Central coach Greg Dean said. “They’ve all ran the gauntlet of winning a sectional. Liberty Christian is a good team and they play a good schedule. We know that they have some offensive ability and are going to have to find ways to limit that. We’re just preparing one day at a time with the process that we go through.”
The matchup on Saturday between the Mustangs and Lions will be battle of contrasting styles. The Lions average 63.3 points per game while the Mustang defense gives up just 41.4 Fountain Central offensively averages 57.7 a game and is led by junior guard Will Harmon’s 16 points per game. 6’10 big man Mason Larkin averages just over 12 a contest and Isaac Gayler scores right around 10.
The Lions have four players in double figures who are all seniors. Cedric Anderson leads the team at 13.8 a game and also grabs 6.4 rebounds and picks up 2.1 steals. Kobe Watson stands a 6’8 and scores 12.9 a game and grabs 6.0 rebounds. Eric and Ethan Troutman both average right around 11 per game.
Liberty Christian is led by first-year coach Norman Anderson. This season the Lions have battled teams like University (22-3), Westfield (16-8), Bethesda Christian (21-4), Guerin Catholic (17-8), Anderson (20-5), and Noblesville (19-6). Anderson notes how the tough teams his squad has played in the regular season only prepares them better for the post-season.
“We build our schedule around everything we might see in the post-season,” he said. “Fountain Central is a really physical team and have veterans on that team and area also well-coached. That’s what stands out on film as we’ve been preparing for them.”
Defense has been the Mustangs calling card all season long and has been the philosophy and style that Dean has wanted to create since he took over the Mustangs a season ago. That style of physical play has allowed the Mustangs to put constant pressure on their opponents and be able to use their combination of size, speed, and athleticism to wreak havoc.
“Defense is something that travels especially in tournament play,” Dean said. “When you go places that you haven’t played before (like Frankfort) you may not shoot the ball well. If you hold that team to a low number you can always find yourself in a ball game and that’s what we’ve done. We’ve shown that we can win games in the 30’s and 40’s. We talked about at the beginning of the year that we could be a really good defensive team and we’ve turned into that.”
With the Lions scoring 63 points per game, one may think that they love to push the tempo and get out in transition. Coach Anderson describes his teams style of play a little differently than one might expect.
“Going back to our schedule and how we build it, we really learn how to play so many different ways,” Anderson said. “That’s important when you’re getting into tournament play. We’ve seen teams already and will continue to see teams who play different and that forces us to adapt. I see us a chameleon for that fact that whatever needs to be done, we can do.”
While the Mustang want to continue their magical season that they’ve had and are focusing on the game Saturday, Dean also stated how he wants his kids to enjoy what they’ve accomplished. They’re now reaping the fruits of the hard work that they’ve put in all season.
“I hope our kids are taking time to enjoy what we’ve done because it’s hard to do what we’ve accomplished,” he said. “The fun of this week is getting to be together as a team. At the same time we’ve been real focused because they have a new goal of winning a Regional. It’s the next step and the next goal we have.”
Tip off at Case Arena in Frankfort between the Lions and Mustangs is scheduled for 4 pm on Saturday. The winner advances to the semi-state round next weekend.
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