JEFFERSON – On a night when Clinton Prairie’s triangle-and-two defense bottled up Rossville’s leading scorer Brandon Tonsoni, his teammates picked up the slack.
Ethan Brenneman led four Hornets in double figures with 21 points, and Austin Miller scored 20 points to lead Rossville past the Gophers, 77-65, in a Hoosier Heartland Conference matchup on Friday.
“I just don’t teams can play that much junk against us because we have other guys that can score,” said Rossville head coach Dave Mosson said. “They threw something at us that I thought, in the back of my mind, they might do but we didn’t work on it. It was something new we hadn’t seen before and kind of panicked a little bit early.”
Prairie’s (0-6, 0-1 HHC) triangle-and-two defense – where three defenders sit in a triangle-shaped zone and two defenders play man-to-man, usually against the opponent’s best scorers – held Tonsoni to only two field goals and eight points total. However, the defense was also unable to stop senior point guard James Baker from penetrating the lane and Brenneman from grabbing offensive rebounds for putbacks.
Brenneman’s 21 points were a season high, and he was one rebound short of a double-double with nine.
“We’ve never seen a triangle-and-two before, so we just drove, got to the basket and finished,” Brenneman said. “They’d have to commit up to us when we drove, and then Mikey (Gregorash) or Austin would be open.”
Gregorash was in double figures for the third consecutive game with 15 points on 6 of 7 shooting from the field. Baker chipped in 10 points.
Prairie got an unbelievable performance out of junior Austin Martin. He scored a game-high 31 points on 13 of 20 shooting, either muscling his way through the lane to earn a lay-up or draw a foul. He also grabbed four offensive rebounds.
“Austin’s a heck of a ballplayer,” said Prairie head coach Eric Ulrich. “He just hasn’t had the opportunity or been aggressive enough to demonstrate those things. We preached all week about being more aggressive. That really fits Austin’s style of play. He just played incredible.”
Trailing 24-20 early in the second quarter, Rossville outscored Prairie 21-6 the final 7:13 to take a comfortable 41-30 lead at halftime. Miller scored 10 of those points – including two 3-pointers – as the Gophers went ice-cold from the field, only making 2 of 12 field goals in that time span.
“When we decided (their defense) wasn’t all that great big of a deal, we started driving to the basket,” Mosson said.
Brenneman scored seven points in the second quarter and 13 of his 21 in the first half.
“What really killed us was that we didn’t rebound in that (defense),” Ulrich said. “If you’re trying to take a scorer away and you give someone who doesn’t score at the same pace easy looks that kind of shoots your game plan.”
Gregorash and Brenneman represented all of Rossville’s scoring in the third, scoring eight and six points, respectively, as the Hornets’ lead ranged from 9-13 points.
“Rossville picked up their defensive style of pressure. We settled for jump shots instead of trying to get to the rim to get lay-ups or find shooters,” Ulrich said. “We’ve got some kids who can shoot the basketball when they’ve got their feet set.”
Rossville kicked off the fourth quarter with six straight points to take its biggest lead of the game at 61-43 with 6:14 remaining. However, Prairie didn’t rest as Martin took over. He scored 12 points in the final 4:21 of the game and Prairie was able to cut Rossville’s lead to 11 points with 2:17 left.
But Rossville closed the game out at the line, making 11 of 12 free throws in the final 2:02.
Prairie came out on fire to start the game, making 9 of 11 field goal attempts. Martin was the leading force, making 6 of 7 shots to score 13 points in the opening frame. But Rossville kept pace and never trailed by more than two points in the quarter.
“We were throwing everything in our arsenal to try to slow them down,” Mosson said.
Walker was also in double figures for CP with 15 points and led with seven rebounds. Martin chipped in six rebounds.
For Rossville, Tonsoni had eight rebounds and Baker seven rebounds and six assists. Brenneman chipped in four assists.
Rossville’s now won three consecutive games after a 2-3 start.
“We just calmed down a little,” Brenneman said. “At the beginning of the year we were just hyped up. We’re playing our roles now. It’s helping out a lot.”