It’s always more difficult to beat a team the second time around. That’s exactly the task the No. 8 ranked Southmont Mounties had in front of them Friday as they took on Western Boone in the opening round of the 15th annual Sugar Creek Classic at Crawfordsville. Southmont would get a second half rally from Western Boone before the Mounties put away the game at the free-throw line and advanced to the championship game with a 51-44 victory.
Despite the win, Southmont coach Jake Turner saw things that need improving on moving forward if his team is to bring home a Sugar Creek Classic title.
“You have to give credit to Western Boone for playing hard and physical all game long,” Turner said of the Stars. “I just didn’t think we played well and there’s a lot of things that we emphasized that we didn’t do well. We have to be able to fix those things very quickly because we’ll be playing a tough Crawfordsville team.”
The stat that stands out in the box score and was the biggest difference in the win for Southmont who stays unbeaten at 8-0 (3-0 SAC) was their ability to get to the free-throw line and knock them down. The Mounties went 20-28 from the charity stripe compared t cid:ii_ky57084m0 o just 6-14 for the Stars. Avery Saunders led the way at the line going 11-12 in the win.
“Luckily they didn’t shoot their free-throws as well as they typically do and we knocked ours down,” Turner said. “We didn’t knock down shots from the perimeter or score in the paint very well so it was an ugly game for us but we still won.”
Western Boone (2-7, 0-3 SAC) was able to rally back after 12-2 Mountie first quarter which saw the Stars shoot just 1-10 from the field. Elliot Young drilled a three-pointer late in the third to cut the Southmont lead to just 34-30 and another triple late in the fourth to cut their deficit once again to just 43-38. However the Stars just couldn’t get a stop on the defensive end when they needed it most.
“The first five or six minutes really just hurt us tonight” Stars coach Dustin Oakley said. “We were wanting to slow the pace down and make sure on offense we were getting great looks and taking great shots. After that slow start we managed the game the best we could and to hang with a top ten team like that, we played a lot better this time around.”
Saunders led all scorers with 24 points and ten rebounds in the win for the Mounties. Logan Oppy also scored in double figures with 13.
For the Stars Young scored 15 in the loss which featured five made threes. Kaden Bennington scored 12 points off the bench to round out the double-figure scoring for the Stars.
“We started to play at lot more inside-out and that freed up our shooters,” Oakely said. “They were able to keep us in the game and Benny (Bennington) had a great game off the bench and Elliot had a heck of a game for us. He was also guarding Saunders on the other end so to put him on their best player and to still get those contributions were huge.”
Saunders continues to be the steady-reliable hand that Southmont can lean on when they need a basket. Turner continued to praise his star player for stepping up when his team needed him the most.
“He’s one of if not the best player in the conference,” Turner said of Saunders. “He consistently plays hard and is always around the ball, finishes in the paint, is active on defense and does a lot of things really really well. We’re lucky to have him for sure.”
Southmont will now play for the Sugar Creek Classic Championship Saturday night at 7:30 against Crawfordsville who defeated North Montgomery 45-42 in overtime. Western Boone will play the Chargers at 6 p.m. in the consolation game.
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