North Montgomery knew they would have to play a hard fought 32 minutes of basketball in order to stay with Crawfordsville Friday as the Athenians and Chargers met in a re-match in the opening round of the 15th annual Sugar Creek Classic. What they didn’t know was more than 32 minutes would be needed to decide a winner as Crawfordsville escaped with a 45-42 win over the Chargers in what was a Sugar Creek Classic game for the ages.
The Chargers slowed the pace down for most of the game and that was prevalent by the 16-16 tie at halftime between the two county rivals. The third quarter featured 12 combined points as Chargers continued to the game close and trailed 24-20.
With 20.2 seconds remaining in regulation Jakob Kirsch drilled a long range three to give the Chargers a 37-36 lead. The Athenians had the chance to take the lead back with just five seconds left as Cale Coursey would go to the line, but make just 1-2 to even up the score 37.
In overtime Alex Hernandez scored the first three points to give the Athenians a 40-37 advantage. Trailing 43-39 with under a minute left in the game Jarrod Kirsch would hit from downtown to cut the CHS lead to just one at 43-42. Ziair Morgan proceeded to make both free-throws for the Athenians, and the half-court heave fell short on the last possession for the Chargers as the Athenians survived the upset bid.
“I want to give North and Coach Arnold a ton of credit for how hard they played tonight,” Crawfordsville coach David Pierce said. “Coach Arnold coached his butt off and it was everything you wanted in a county rivalry and a classic game like this. Our guys stepped up when we needed them to. They (North Montgomery) were the more physical team early on but our guys gutted this one out fortunately for us.”
Cale Coursey led the Athenians with 14 points in the win. Ian Hensley added in 10.
Jakob Kirsch led the Chargers with 14 and Jarrod Kirsch scored 12.
Arnold had nothing but positives to say after a hard fought loss.
“I’m just really proud of the way we battled all game long,” he said. “We only had six turnovers the entire game and our guards did a great job of continuing to put pressure on them. I’m just proud of every guy that stepped on the court for us tonight. If one more play maybe went our way then we probably win, but still the effort was there and that’s what I’m proud of most.”
While some players for the Athenians didn’t have their best night in the win, they still found ways to contribute other than scoring which Pierce loved to see.
“Ian was just missing some easy shots at the rim, and we know that won’t happen again,” Pierce said. “Guys like him and Ziair struggled, but Z went 6-6 from the line late to win us the game. Ian got six rebounds and came up with three steals so those small things were huge in a close game like this. Our kids have worked hard for a long time to be in situations like this and they were able to gut out a win.”
Coming in most probably favored the Athenians to come out on top, however the Chargers proved to a lot of people that even though they may be out-matched at times, they will continue to scratch and claw and be a physical team.
“Our guys wanted it tonight and you can see it out there,” Arnold said. “It’s going to be tough again tomorrow night with playing a tough Western Boone team, but our guys will be ready. It’ll say a lot about our team tomorrow if we’re able to come back out and compete as hard as we did tonight.”
The Athenians improve to 7-2 (1-1 SAC) on the season while the Chargers fall to 1-9 (0-2 SAC). The Athenians will move from one county rival to another as they will battle the No. 8 ranked Southmont Mounties who stayed undefeated with a 51-44 win over Western Boone. Two county rivals will battle out for a championship and Pierce knows it’ll be another war.
“They’re undefeated for a reason,” Pierce said. “We’re going to have our hands full because they have three super-talented players. Hopefully we execute our plan tomorrow night because it’s going to be fun. We haven’t played in a longtime and tomorrow night is going to be a barn burner.”
The Chargers and Stars will get underway a 6 p.m. followed by the Mounties and Athenians in the battle for paddle.
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