Wins and losses will always be the metric by which teams and coaches are judged, for better or worse. But in a year in which the Clinton Prairie boys’ basketball team has mostly struggled, last week’s results provided a bit of a positive spark – even in defeat.
The Gophers (2-17) took a seven-win Tri-Central team into overtime on Feb. 15 before losing 66-61. And one night later, the Gophers traveled to an eight-win Attica team and nearly pulled off an upset before succumbing 64-62. With the regular season coming to a close on the road tonight against Western Boone (9-10), the Gophers are finding their stride at the right time with the sectional looming next week.
For a team that was getting outscored by an average of 16.5 points per game, that’s significant progress.
“It was without a doubt two of our better defensive performances of the season,” said Prairie head coach Eric Ulrich. “We still need to limit our turnovers as that seems to be our major Achilles’ heel. We have steadily improved over the season and without a doubt I feel we are playing much better now.”
Prairie’s driving force this past weekend was freshman Kale Morris, who scored 16 and 21 points, respectively, in the two games. The youngster found his shooting strike, making 59 percent of his shots and 50 percent from downtown, well above his season averages.
It’s the third time in four games Morris has scored in double figures. He’s got a season-high of 27 points against Clinton Central, and scored 20 earlier in the season against Fountain Central.
Morris is averaging 11.5 points per game.
“He was in a bit of a shooting slump a couple of weeks ago but has seemed to come out of that, shooting 44 percent from behind-the-arc,” Ulrich said. “Kale has been a very consistent rebounder for us this season as well. We think Kale is going to be a very special player for us and we are excited to see his progression over the next three years.”
Morris’s scoring outburst has come as defenses has clamped down on Prairie junior Austin Martin, the team’s leading scorer at 14.7 ppg. After an incredible nine-game scoring streak where Martin averaged 17.3 points per game – including 34 points against North White and 31 against Rossville – defenses had cut down on his field goal and free throw attempts.
In those nine games, Martin averaged 10.8 field goal attempts and 9.5 free throws per game. In the past five games, he’s only getting 6.8 and 4.8, respectively.
That’s a 37 percent drop in field goals and more than 50 percent in free throws.
Ulrich said that Martin has battled injuries and sickness over the past couple weeks, and Morris, Ryan Walker and Tanner Forsythe stepped up their offensive play.
“Austin is doing a great job for us in every aspect of the game. He has the ability to really do some remarkable things on both ends of the floor. We rely on him heavily and are very pleased with what he has been doing for our team,” Ulrich said.
Western Boone has found its footing recently, winning four of its last five games after dropping nine of 11 contests in midseason. Senior CJ McMann (18.6 ppg), sophomore Riggs Baxter (11.1 ppg) and senior L.V. Bowden (6.9 ppg) lead the Stars in scoring.
WeBo has won six straight over Prairie, with the Gophers’ last win coming in the 2005-06 season, a 66-56 win.
Frankfort’s (16-4, 5-1 Sagamore Athletic Conference) regular season comes to a close with a conference matchup at Tri-West (12-7, 3-3 SAC) tonight. The Hot Dogs have won eight of the last 10 games against the Bruins, including an 81-68 win last year which springboarded the Hot Dogs’ postseason run to the regional championship game.
The Hot Dogs are rolling right now, winners of 11 of their last 12 games, while the Bruins are also making life difficult for their opponents. Tri-West has won eight of its last nine games, the lone setback to Crawfordsville – Frankfort’s sectional opponent on Tuesday.
The Hot Dogs will look to keep the momentum going positively as 2012-13 regular season campaign ends.
“No matter what happens, you want to play well,” said Frankfort head coach Tom Weeks. “You can take whatever happens if you’re playing well and playing hard. We’re looking to play aggressive, attack the rim and play hard as a team.”
Frankfort junior Christian Smith is playing some of the best basketball of his career right now. Over the last four games Smith is averaging 11.2 ppg and has been efficient from the field, shooting 50 percent (20 of 40).
Smith has also been a terror on the boards the past seven contests, averaging 10.3 per game, including 14 against North Montgomery. Smith also had 14 boards earlier in the season against Rossville.
“When he started doing it on the boards is when he started to pick up the rest of his game,” Weeks said. “When he’s going to the glass aggressively and taking it to the hole, he’s a tremendous player.
“He’s doing a great job of what we want him to do, and doing it well.”
Senior Nathan Wissman is also shining late in the season, averaging 13.8 ppg over the last four games, and junior Brody Kirby is averaging 22.0 points and 7.0 assists per game over the last two contests.
Frankfort senior Dakota Isgrigg is closing in on 10th-place all-time in Frankfort scoring annals. The 6-foot-7 big man has 1,099 points and is 42 points away from passing Wilbur Cummins (1,140 from 1921-25). Based on his season scoring average, Isgrigg could get there if the Hot Dogs reach the sectional championship game.
“We’ve got three guys averaging doubles figures and two at nine (per game),” Weeks said. “We’re sitting right where I want to be at this point in time.”
Sophomore Trevor Waite (16.1 ppg) leads Tri-West in scoring.
Clinton Central (1-19), coming off a 92-44 loss to Delphi on Tuesday, closes out its season tonight at Frontier (7-14). The Falcons already own one victory over the Bulldogs this season, a 68-48 decision in the Indiana Kitchen Basketball Classic in late November.
Coincidentally, two of the Bulldogs’ three wins last season came against Frontier. The Falcons have won five of the past seven head-to-head matchups.
Rossville’s (10-10) difficult end-of-season schedule continues as the Hornets travel to West Lafayette (15-5) tonight. Seniors Justus Stanback (14.0 ppg, 8.7 rpg) and Brian Bangs (10.7 ppg, 7.0 rpg) lead the Red Devils. They’ve also got three more capable scorers in freshman Nai Carlisle (9.6 ppg), senior Caleb Shinn (9.0 ppg) and senior Tory Eger (7.2 ppg).