FISHERS – With the sectional draw just a few days away, the Hamilton Southeastern boys basketball team is playing like a team primed for March.
The Class 4A ninth-ranked Royals built an 18-point first-half lead and held off visiting Pike 74-63 Tuesday night. As it did in defeating Carmel by 21 points on Friday, HSE turned up the defensive pressure on Pike.
“We talked about how our defense is really starting to come together in the second half of the season,” said HSE senior Connor Rotterman, who scored 11 of his 20 points in the third quarter. “We know how important that is and we’re starting to roll at just the right time. We’re looking forward to the next couple of weeks.”
Rotterman and senior Zach Gunn (22 points) provided most of the offensive punch for HSE, which has won four games in a row and six of seven going into Friday’s game at Hoosier Crossroads Conference rival Brownsburg.
The 6-6 Gunn, who was honored before Tuesday’s game for breaking the school’s career scoring record last week, made perhaps the biggest offensive play of the game.
Pike had whittled HSE’s lead to five points when Gunn banked in a putback with 1:35 left. The Royals (18-4) pulled away from there, finishing the game on an 11-5 run.
“That’s been him all year long,” HSE coach Brian Satterfield said. “He’s the guy we lean on. The thing about him is that he’s not going to try to force things, but if it’s there, he’s going to take it. He just keeps making big plays for us.”
Tuesday’s game was Pike’s second in a four-game stretch that is as tough as any in the state. The Red Devils (15-6) lost to North Central 77-63 on Friday and have Lawrence North on Friday and Warren Central next Tuesday to finish out the regular season.
Pike coach Bill Zych was hoping to see a return to form from a team that won the Marion County tournament last month. The Red Devils struggled offensively early and weren’t able to get enough stops late, despite HSE’s 16 turnovers.
“We gave ourselves a fighting chance, but we got way too far behind,” Zych said. “(Gunn) is a good player. I thought we made him earn his shots in the first half, but he got some rebounds late. But he’s a good player and (Rotterman) had a good game tonight.”
Pike’s interior players, 6-6 junior Darian Porch (21 points) and 6-6 senior Isiah James (12 points), provided most of the offense. The Red Devils were just 3-for-15 from the 3-point line.
HSE played without sophomore Aaron Etherington, a regular in the starting lineup who was sick. But the Royals’ depth may be contributing to this late-season kick.
“It starts on the defensive end,” Rotterman said. “It leads us to getting out in transition and we’re being really unselfish with the ball. I think that’s where we’re finding our success.”
Both teams will find out Sunday where it will begin a potential tournament run. HSE is in Sectional 8 at Carmel, where the Greyhounds probably pose the biggest threat. Pike is in Sectional 11 at Decatur Central, which also includes Ben Davis and Roncalli in a six-team field.
“We told the kids we could win all four of these games or lose all four,” Zych said of his team’s final four regular-season games. “But mentally we have to get back to playing the tournament-type possessions and we haven’t done that. We have a week to correct it and hopefully get ready for March.”
Call IndyStar reporter Kyle Neddenriep at (317) 444-6649.
HAMILTON SOUTHEASTERN 74, PIKE 63
Pike 12 10 16 25 – 63
HSE 19 14 19 22 – 74
Pike (15-6) – Gary 4 1-2 11, Williams 4 1-2 9, Pennington 0 2-2 2, Porch 9 3-4 21, James 5 2-4 12, Pegues 3 1-2 8. Totals: 25 10-16 63.
HSE (18-4) – Davidson 0 2-3 2, Birchfield 3 2-2 8, Rotterman 8 2-2 20, Smith 4 5-6 13, Gunn 10 2-6 22, Shank 1 2-2 5, Bowman 1 0-0 2, Bond 1 0-0 2. Totals: 28 15-21 74.
3-point goals: Pike 3 (Gary 2, Pegues), HSE 3 (Rotterman 2, Shank).