NEW MARKET — Trip Ward made the cut to the right side corner.
“Don’t lose (No.) 10,” came the direction from the Tri-West bench.
They did lose him. Ward took the inbounds pass from Carson Chadd off a Carter Hubble screen and nailed a three pointer with 17 seconds left for a 49-48 lead and Southmont finished off the visiting Bruins 51-48 in a Sagamore Conference thriller Thursday evening in the Tandy Gymnasium.
“Some teams would get behind late and hang their heads,” South coach Jake Turner said. “Our guys just keep chugging and keep believing. We’re not perfect, but we keep competing. That was great execution off that inbounds play. They make me look smarter than I am.”
On the next defensive possession, Ward knocked a pass away to give South the ball and sew it up with a pair of free throws.
Except for outstanding defense during two four-minute stretches of the first half, the game was back and forth. South used that defensive run to build a 13-12 lead at the end of the first quarter to 31-22 at the half. The Bruins (8-10, 1-4 Sagamore Conference) controlled the third quarter, holding South (12-5, 3-3 SAC) to only buckets by Hayden Hess and Carter Hubble plus a Carter Chadd free throw, drawing to 36-33 heading to the final eight minutes.
A Tri-West 5-2 run to open the fourth frame evened the contest 38-38.
Baskets by Bruin star Max Robertson and a three by reserve Ian Rench put the visitors up 43-40 with 3:39 to play.
Offensive putbacks by Chadd and Kyler McCandless offset a Grant Oldham three to tie it at 46 with 53 seconds left.
South ran the offense in the front court down 48-46 after a Robertson basket before a timeout by Turner set up the potential winning play.
“They turned up the defensive intensity in the second half, but credit to our guys. We held them to 48. We rely on our defense and rely on our rebounding.”
South hit 5-of-9 from the field in the deciding final period, finishing 21-51 for the game. Meanwhile, the defense held a good-shooting Tri-West to just 19-48 for the game, including three empty possessions at the end.
Leading shooters Robertson and Drew Miller combined for only 7-of-25 shooting.
“That’s on our seniors (Chadd and E.J. Brewer). We put them on those two guys. We thought they were the head of the snake and both did a great job chasing and stopping.”
The Mounties controlled the boards practically the entire contest, outrebounding the Bruins 41-24 with a 15-5 advantage on the offensive glass.
Chadd and Brewer led the scoring with 15 and 10 respectively. Five other Mounties also got in the scorebook. Robertson topped Tri-West with 12, which was under his average. Six-foot-six-inch big man Wes Ward added 11 to go with seven rebounds.
The teams combined for only 17 turnovers, 11 by South.
The win clinches South’s third straight winning season for the first time since 1980. It also was the first consecutive wins over Tri-West since 2003. South had lost nine straight to the Bruins and 15 of 16 before these last two victories.
“That shows what we’ve been able to accomplish with this program. It’s a testament to the work these guys have put in to build this culture.”
Tri-West next plays at Crawfordsville Feb. 10. Turner’s group is next in action Feb. 7 at South Vermillion, starting a tough three-game road stretch, which also includes Fountain Central and South Putnam. There are 28 wins among those three teams.
“We know we’re going to have to be ready to play on the road especially on a week night. There’s no easy ones the rest of the way. We’ll have to earn them all.”
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