Six years ago, Timmy Mills was among those in the nostalgic environment, watching his brothers compete in the intense Central Catholic vs. Rossville rivalry.
He was taken in by the crowd and the atmosphere in Rossville’s small but packed gymnasium. He remembers that night on Feb. 21, 2007 when the Knights lost a highly competitive 71-68 game.
CC hadn’t lost to the Hornets since, and on Friday night, Mills was the reason for many of the cheers and jeers among the raucous crowd.
Mills scored 17 points, including the first dunk of his high school career, and limited Hornets leading scorer Brandon Tonsoni to five points on 1-of-7 shooting in Class A No. 10 CC’s 58-52 victory, the Knights’ 11th in a row over Rossville.
“Rossville is a great basketball community and I love playing Rossville, even though we’re not in the same conference anymore,” Mills said. “It’s still a big game that everybody loves to watch. We’re fighting for our pride, and so is Rossville, because it has been such a great rivalry over the years.”
Mills made 7 of 11 shots, Andrew Hubertz scored 18 points and Jake Churchill made a timely three-point play with 1:28 to go, but it was clutch performances by two other contributors that coach Dave Barrett pointed to as the reasons for victory.
After missing a free throw with a four-point lead and 48 seconds remaining, Mitch Witteveen sank six consecutive from the charity stripe in an 11-second span to ice the game. Witteveen caught a deep inbounds pass from Mills with 20 seconds to go and was fouled from behind.
Officials ruled the foul flagrant. Witteveen made two free throws to put CC ahead 56-51 and made two more two seconds later for the Knights’ final points.
But Barrett said momentum shifted with 5:13 remaining.
Seldom-used senior reserve Ryan DeBoy coralled a missed shot by Churchill and tossed it in to put the Knights ahead, 43-38.
“We’ve all got our individual roles, and my job is just to get in there and give us a little spark off the bench,” DeBoy said. “I just crashed the boards hard, and the ball came right to me.”
Rossville claimed the lead on two occasions. Austin Miller’s runner in the opening quarter put the Hornets (10-10) ahead 10-9 after the first period. Michael Gregorash, who scored a team-high 16 points, put Rossville up 33-31 with 2:55 to go in the third quarter and the game was tied entering the fourth.
The Hornets made four turnovers in the final quarter on their senior night, possibly leading to a victory slipping away. The two teams could potentially meet again in the sectional.
“It’s one of those situations where we play them so late in the season, and some of the things we might want to do in the sectional, we didn’t want to show tonight,” Rossville coach Dave Mosson said. “We’ve got to work on our offense, because they are very aggressive defensively.”
Miller scored 10 points, James Baker added nine and Tonsoni, who came in averaging 16.2 points per game, got his only field goal with 3:35 to go in the third quarter, a 3-pointer to tie the game at 31.
After losing to county rivals West Lafayette and Harrison on consecutive nights two weeks ago to fall to 8-8, CC has now won three straight games, forcing 17 turnovers to help in victory on Friday.
“We’re playing well defensively. We’re stopping people,” Barrett said. “But we’re not very good on the offensive end. We’ve got a couple weeks here to work it out.”