In one year, the Southport boys basketball program has gone from worst to first.
The Cardinals won just one game and went winless in Conference Indiana last year under then first-year coach Kyle Simpson. Friday, Southport dismantled township and conference rival Perry Meridian 71-57 to post its first winning record in the conference and, more importantly, capture at least a share of the title for the first time since joining in 1997.
“I’m just happy for our school and our community,” Simpson said. “I keep telling our guys that we’re trying to get Southport basketball back on the map.”
Host Perry Meridian (11-4, 2-2 in Conference Indiana) came out strong in building a 17-9 first-quarter lead. Senior guard Curtis Green Jr. was spectacular, accounting for 12 points in the first. With 3.7 seconds left in the quarter and the Falcons inbounding from the far end of the court, Green raced up the floor and banked in a running 3-pointer to end the quarter.
It the Cardinals’ manic defense that got Southport (9-7, 4-1) back into it in the second, as they went full-court pressure against the Falcons. It worked. Back-to-back turnovers by Perry while inbounding the ball resulted in simple layups and Southport’s first lead of the game at 19-18 with 4:40 left in the half. Offensively, the Cardinals started getting the ball inside to 6-10 sophomore center Joey Brunk, who delivered with six of his game-high-tying 22 points in the quarter. Perry Meridian, meanwhile, didn’t make a field goal and managed just three points. Southport’s Malik Bennett matched Green’s first quarter dramatics with a buzzer beating 3-pointer of his own to give the Cardinals a 26-20 halftime lead.
“We came out and knew we had to try to pressure them speed them up,” said Brunk, who added a team-high seven rebounds to go with a pair of assists. “We tried to create some easy buckets and get back into the game, take them out of their own game and shoot open shots. We did a good job of that.”
Senior guard Anthony Hardy did his best to get the Falcons back into it, hitting three straight triples to start the third, and Perry pulled to within 39-34 midway through the quarter on a layup by Green, but Southport surged ahead with a 10-0 run and the Falcons wouldn’t threaten the lead the rest of the way.
“They’ve got very talented players,” said Perry Meridian coach Brent Keck. “They did a good job of speeding us up and making us uncomfortable.”
Bennett added 20 points and freshman Paul Scruggs chipped in 13 for Southport. Green finished with 22 points for Perry Meridian and Hardy added 17.