ROSSVILLE – There was no way Rossville intended to let Sheridan’s senior sharpshooter, Tyler Jones, go off for 43 points like he did last season.
The Hornets used a variety of defenses to keep Jones relatively locked up, got two big scoring performances from Brandon Tonsoni and Austin Miller, and withstood 10 Sheridan 3-pointers to outlast the Blackhawks, 60-56, on Saturday afternoon.
With the win, the Hornets clinched the Hoosier Heartland Conference championship outright, the school’s first conference crown since the 2000-2001 season.
“We didn’t want to share it with anybody. We wanted to win it outright,” Tonsoni said. “That was a big thing coming in. We wanted to bring it (Saturday) and just show that we were the sole champions of the conference.”
Rossville used a variety of defenses to slow down Jones. The first was a man-to-man defense with senior point guard James Baker guarding Jones. Mosson then put Miller on senior Heston Hybarger, instructing Miller to leave Hybarger to double-team Jones whenever he got the ball, no matter where Hybarger was on the court.
It’s an idea Rossville head coach Dave Mosson got from Prairie head coach Eric Ulrich.
Rossville also used a 2-3 zone.
“They let 22 (Hybarger) shoot 10-footers and he couldn’t make them. We tried to use that to our advantage,” Mosson said. “When we went zone, we told the front row guys to run at (Jones) and make him give it up. And if he got in the corner we’d double him with the wing guy. The kids played outstanding in listening to detail.
“We tried to run two guys at Jones as much as we could.”
Despite the defensive focus on Jones, he still scored 16 points but took 19 shots to get there. Senior teammate Sam Zachery picked up much of the slack, nailing five 3-pointers to finish with 21 points.
Sheridan was 10 of 25 from downtown.
“They finally believed me when I said Zachery and (Bryan) Powell can hit 3s,” Mosson said. “I don’t remember too many times they tried to put the ball on the floor and get to the rim.”
Jones was also hobbled by an injury in the lower half of his right leg and sat much of the second quarter.
Tonsoni, Rossville’s leading scorer, busted out of a mini-shooting slump with 27 points on 9 of 13 shooting. Tonsoni has struggled with his 3-point shot as of late but hit 3 of 4 attempts on Saturday – two coming in the first quarter.
“I’ve been trying to work my way out of (my slump) and get to the rim,” Tonsoni said. “And most of my 3s were falling (Saturday) as well. I’m just trying to do a little bit of everything.”
Miller also found his scoring touch, scoring 19 points.
“If I’m on, he’s gonna get me the ball and if he’s on I’m gonna get him the ball,” Tonsoni said.
Miller single-handedly put the Hornets in front to stay in the second quarter, scoring five consecutive points in an interesting fashion.
Mosson signaled to Brad Myers to substitute in for Miller after Miller took a shot the head coach didn’t like. But before the next stoppage of play, Miller scored on a lay-up and shortly thereafter recorded a steal, hit a lay-up, was fouled and made the ensuing free throw to give Rossville a 21-15 lead.
“Brad turned to me and said, ‘You still want me to go in?’ I said yeah,” Mosson said with a chuckle. “Austin works really hard and tries to get stuff done.”
Rossville outscored Sheridan, 17-9, in the second quarter to lead 31-24 at the half.
The Hornets opened up the second half with a 6-1 start to take their biggest lead of the game at 37-25. But Zachery hit two 3s and Jones one in a little over a minute to cut Rossville’s lead to 37-34.
Sheridan finally cut the lead to two points, 56-54, on a Jones jumper with 1:31 left in the game. After a Rossville turnover, Sheridan got three chances to tie or take the lead but Jones missed two 3-pointers and Zachery missed a putback.
Tonsoni and Miller each hit two free throws in the final 24 seconds to secure the win.
“We tried to get a hand in their face, and I thought in the last two or three minutes we did that,” Mosson said.
Rossville shot 55 percent (21 of 38) from the field.
“We ran our set and continuity offenses as well as we have all year,” Mosson said.
Having already locked up a share of the HHC title back on Jan. 18 with a win over Clinton Central, there was a chance Rossville players could have entered the game with a sense of complacency.
But luckily for the Hornets, that did not occur.
“I kept reminding them on a daily basis that I wasn’t very good about sharing stuff,” Mosson said. “Sometimes you say stuff like that and you don’t know if they’re paying attention. We came out really focused.
“When they lock in like that, we’re a heck of a team that’s hard to beat. We need to bottle that for the next three or four weeks.”
Rossville 60, Sheridan 56
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Sheridan 15 9 18 14 - 56
Rossville 14 17 16 13 - 60
Sheridan (12-6, 2-3 HHC) 56
Jones 6-19 0-2 16, Zachery 8-12 0-0 21, Stumm 3-7 2-4 8, Powell 1-9 2-2 5, Hybarger 1-5 0-0 2, King 2-5 0-0 4, Christy 0-0 0-0 0, Boyer 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 21-57 4-8 56.
Rossville (10-9, 5-0 HHC) 60
Gregorash 1-1 1-2 3, Baker 3-5 2-2 8, Miller 7-15 4-6 19, Tonsoni 9-13 6-7 27, Brenneman 0-1 1-2 1, Wilson 0-0 0-0 0, Meyers 0-0 0-0 0, Howard 1-2 0-0 2, Myers 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 21-38 14-19 60.
3-point field goals: SH 10-25 (Zachery 5-7, Jones 4-12, Powell 1-6), RV 4-10 (Tonsoni 3-4, Miller 1-5, Myers 0-1). Rebounds: SH 30 (Stumm 13), RV 31 (Gregorash 6). Assists: SH 11 (Jones, Zachery, Powell 3), RV 6 (Baker 4). Steals: SH 6 (Jones 3), RV 5 (Baker 2). Blocks: SH 3 (King 2), RV 3 (Brenneman 2). Turnovers: SH 6, RV 13. Total fouls: SH 18, RV 13. Fouled out: SH (Hybarger).
Rossville junior Austin Meyers tries to block the shot of Sheridan’s Logan King in Saturday’s contest.
Rossville junior Brandon Tonsoni (left) scored 27 points in leading the Hornets past Sheridan, 60-56, on Saturday afternoon.