Any coach will tell you it is very difficult to beat the same team three times, but that was what Southmont had to do in order to advance to Friday night’s Class 3A Frankfort Sectional semifinals — and they did.
For the third time this season, the Mounties defeated the Western Boone Stars, this time by a 70-65 score. The previous two games were both decided by three points.
Southmont will play host Frankfort, a 66-51 winner over Crawfordsville in the other Wednesday night game, in Friday night’s second game.
“(Western Boone) is a very, very good team, and it was tough to beat them a third time,” Southmont coach Jon Sparks said. “CJ McMann was a beast. He didn’t miss a shot in the first half, and we did a little better job of him in the second half, but he was nearly unstoppable.”
While Southmont (16-5) has been known for its shooting this year, it was the defense which spurred a couple of different runs and proved to be the difference in the game.
At one stretch in the third quarter, four straight turnovers were turned into nine unanswered points as the Mounties seized a 41-36 advantage. The two teams had played to a 32-32 tie through the first 16 minutes.
The next stretch came in the fourth quarter, when Southmont pulled out to a 57-44 lead with just over six minutes to play.
“I told the guys that your defense can be consistent and that your shooting will come and go,” Sparks said. “We got some steals, and it really worked to our advantage.”
“That has been our main emphasis all year,” Southmont’s Devon Burton, who led all scorers with 29 points, said. “When we get our defense going, we tend to get on a roll, and then we can put some points up in a hurry.”
Western Boone (10-11) came out and spread the offense out in the first half and worked it to near perfection. The Stars hit 14 of 21 shots (67 percent) in the first half.
“We didn’t react to that wrinkle too well in the first half,” Sparks said. “We did a much better job in the second half.”
In the second half, the Stars still hit 12 of 24 shots and ended the game hitting 26 of 45 from the floor.
Burton tallied his 29 points in streaks. That included 10 in the first quarter, when the Mounties took a 21-17 lead, and then 12 more in the fourth quarter. That included him hitting seven of eight from the foul line.
“When they started making that comeback in the fourth quarter, I knew we would just have to settle done and play our style of game,” Burton said.
Also reaching double figures for the Mounties were Drake Cooskey and Cody Thomas, who scored 14 and 13 points, respectively.
Western Boone was led by McMann’s 20 points. Logan Wethington added 13, while Riggs Baxter had 12 and LV Bowden had 11.
In the second game of the night, a pesky Crawfordsville team gave the host Hot Dogs all they wanted for three quarters before Frankfort pulled away in the final period for the 66-51 victory.
“At this time of the year, there are no gimmes,” Frankfort coach Tom Weeks said. “Just look around the state at all the teams who have already been beaten. You just have to be happy to win and move on to play another day.”
Frankfort led 27-26 at the break and were ahead by three after three quarters before outscoring the Athenians 25-13 in the fourth. Two facets of the game proved to be the difference down the stretch, according to Weeks.
“We rebounded better and we defended better,” he said. “We when do that, we are usually in a good position.”
Leading the charge for the Hot Dogs (18-4) was junior Christian Smith, who led the team with 20 points and 12 rebounds. He got plenty of support from Isaac Rudd, who tossed in 18, and Dakota Isgrigg, who had 13.
While the loss ended the season for Crawfordsville (5-16), CHS coach David Pierce was pleased with his team’s effort.
“We gave it our all,” he said. “We just got a little tired and made a couple of bad plays in a row, and that let them get away from us a little. Then we had to try to play catch-up, and that’s tough against a team like Frankfort.”
Senior Seth Lewis led the Athenians with 19 points, while Chandler Pursell added 11.
Lebanon will play North Putnam in the first semifinal Friday.