WEST LAFAYETTE – The Rossville boys’ basketball team put up an impressive showing at the Puccini’s Shootout Thursday, held on the Purdue University campus.
The Hornets went 3-1, winning their first two games of the day to advance to the semifinals of the championship bracket. They lost to the Indianapolis Cathedral junior varsity team by two points and then beat West Lafayette by 13 points to finish third out of 16 teams.
Head coach Dave Mosson made an adjustment in the team’s motion offense during the team’s Wednesday night league game at Lafayette Jeff on June 6. The goal was to improve inside scoring from cuts and rolling back to the basket. While Mosson said they didn’t have much success with it that night or the following Wednesday at North Montgomery, the team made great strides in Thursday’s tourney.
“We didn’t shoot the ball particularly well on Wednesday and I thought our execution in the half-court was five times better,” Mosson said. “It was a positive. We executed well because we got good shots.
“We got a lot of good shots against Cathedral, shots that we would normally make didn’t go in.”
Despite Mosson’s concerns about the team’s play at North Montgomery, the Hornets won three of the four games there Wednesday.
Rossville’s most impressive win of the day came in their quarterfinal match against Hamilton Southeastern’s junior varsity team, earning a 61-51 victory. Traditionally, the Hornets have pulled off upsets when catching fire from downtown and that’s what happened against HSE, with Brandon Tonsoni and Austin Miller combining to make 10 3-pointers (six by Tonsoni). Tonsoni led all scorers with 24 points with Miller adding 15 and Ethan Brenneman 12.
All three were starters last year, and a fourth starter, point guard James Baker, also returns next year.
The HSE JV had beaten the Northwestern varsity the game before that. Northwestern went 18-3 last year.
Rossville took a 35-25 lead on a Tonsoni triple early in the second half before a 9-0 Royal run cut the lead to one. But HSE never grabbed the lead in the second half and the Hornets were able to close the game on a 12-1 run to pick up the win.
Rossville defeated the McCutcheon junior varsity team, 55-45, in the first-round game. The Hornets trailed 38-36 before an 11-0 gave them a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. After McCutcheon cut it to four points, Rossville hit six straight free throws to seal the game.
Tonsoni and Miller, in each of the past two seasons, have relied heavily on the 3-point shot and free throws for their points. Driving the lane and creating opportunities has been a focus in the offseason and it showed Thursday as both were more aggressive.
“When they take the ball to the basket and get in traffic, both are capable of pulling up for 10-foot jumpers,” Mosson said. “You have to be smart about how far you take it. Ethan’s also gotten more aggressive offensively.”
Rossville was without Baker in the final two games. He had to leave for a funeral.
Getting Baker more involved in the scoring process is also a priority this summer. In the sectional semifinal against Lafayette Central Catholic, the Hornets had no one to turn to when the Knights made a 21-4 run in the third quarter with Miller and Tonsoni on the bench.
“He constantly kept the ball alive on rebounds (against McCutcheon),” Mosson said. “He’s gotten more aggressive offensively although at times he’s had a tendency to back off. He has to continue to be offensive-minded in order for us to be successful.”
A relative newcomer to the varsity team and seeing a ton of playing time is sophomore Clayton Howard. The post player has proven to be a contributor grabbing rebounds offensively and defensively.
“He’s played major minuets there this summer,” Mosson said. “He’s got good court awareness. He’s made great strides.”
Rossville has a busy June with two more Wednesday night league games, a tournament at Wabash College and team camp at Rose-Hulman – all before the calendar turns to July 1.