Rebels hold their own at Super Hoops
Small town hit big time last weekend when South Central’s second-ranked (Class A) boys basketball team took on some of the state’s best competition in the third annual Super Hoops Tournament in the Indianapolis area.
The tourney had two different venues that led to the final round, played yesterday at historic Hinkle Fieldhouse on the Butler University campus. Half the 12-team field played at Frankfort while the other half, including South, played at the old, 3,000-seat West Gym at Center Grove High School.
On Thursday the Rebels used a 19-2 run to open the game against 2A Northeastern and held off a late charge by the Knights before winning 78-65.
A short two hours later, South went up against a very physical 4A Merrillville squad and produced a super defensive effort on the Pirates’ 6-8 senior Justin Johnson to come away with another win, 73-61. The accomplishment came at a cost: 6-5 Rebels junior Brian Mercer sprained an ankle with 2:44 left in the scrap. He came back in with about a minute left in the game with the ankle heavily taped, but a closer look afterwards at the team hotel showed a lot of swelling.
That forced Mercer to miss the semifinal game against 4A Center Grove, which raced past the Rebels, 93-66, Friday evening to snap South’s seven-game winning streak. (Center Grove went on to win the tournament last night over previously undefeated Columbia City.) The loss to the Trojans set up last night’s South-Frankfort tilt at Hinkle, which was won by the Hot Dogs, 64-56, behind Brandon Crone’s 30 points.
Frankfort 64, S.C. 56
South’s hope for a ‘Milan Miracle’ was dashed last night as Frankfort junior forward Brandon Crone poured in 30 points in a 64-56 thriller in historic Hinkle Fieldhouse.
The 3A Hot Dogs are ranked eighth in their class.
The No. 2-ranked Rebels (8-3), which used the locker room that hosted the Hickory Huskers in the classic hoops film, “Hoosiers,” went a respectable 2-2 overall in the Super Hoops Tournament to finish fourth in the 12-team field.
South senior point guard Craig Schoen led South with 26 points on 9-17 shooting from the floor, 4-4 at the charity stripe and was 4 for 8 on threes. He dished out five assists with three steals and grabbed two rebounds as well. The Lipscomb University-signee also broke the school’s career-scoring record in the fourth quarter of the loss. The old mark of 1,593 points was previously held by his older brother, Scott, who now coaches the boys varsity squad at Shoals.
Frankfort (6-2) held a 17-8 lead at the end of the first quarter and owned its biggest lead of the contest just two ticks into the second when Crone had a put-back. The Rebels fought back to trail by just two at the half, 29-27, thanks to a couple of jumpers by Kevin Kendall, Aaron Vaught and Schoen. To that point, the only things keeping South from overtaking Frankfort’s physical squad were crashing the defensive boards and foul trouble.
“We were really doing pretty much everything that we wanted to outside of that,” South coach Greg Robinson said. “We just gave up way too many boards on their end of the court. The tempo of the game wasn’t quite where we wanted it to be, either, and I think a lot of that had to do with Jared (Wilkerson) and Brad (Mercer) being in foul trouble.”
South Central was able to tie it in the third quarter on a free throw by Brian Mercer and a three by Schoen. From there the lead teetered back and forth until the 1:36 mark of the final period, when Crone zipped one in from the left baseline, 49-48. The Rebels never led again as Frankfort connected on 9 of 9 free throws down the stretch.
Overall, the Hot Dogs shot 24 of 54 and went 4-9 on triples. They out-rebounded the Rebels, 26-22, and committed one less turnover, 13-12. South Central was 23 of 47 from the floor and 4-10 on threes.
In addition to Schoen’s points, Brian Mercer had 10, Vaught had 10, Kendall finished with eight and Jared Wilkerson scored two.
For Frankfort, senior guard Josh Bell notched 10, with Crone accounting for almost half of his team’s 64 points.
“Crone really had us on our heels early on. He dominated the game and I thought he did a little better job controlling him in the second half even though he still got off some points. He’s a major-league basketball player,” Robinson said. “I had no problem with our effort tonight. We had some chances there late and lost them.
“If you’d told me we’d be up one with two minutes to go against the No. 8 team in the state, I think I’d have been pretty happy, so I’m not going to fault the kids’ effort. This was a great showcase for our ball club and it will definitely help us at the end of the year in the tournament.”
The Rebels hit the road again this weekend as they travel to Fern Creek (Lou.). In fact, South Central will log the miles in January and February as they host just three games the rest of the season: Jan. 12 vs. Medora, Feb. 19 vs. Charlestown and Jan. 22 vs. Corydon Central.
Center Grove 93, S.C. 66
With junior forward Brian Mercer stuck on the sideline with a sprained ankle, the Rebels struggled against the home-standing Trojans, 93-66.
Center Grove opened the game with a 29-17 explosion to start the tilt and led 52-30 at the break. The Rebels contained the Trojans in the third quarter but were outscored 25-18 in the final stanza to drop only their second game of the season.
For South, senior guard and Indiana All-star candidate Craig Schoen continued to have the hot hand with 28 points. Junior forward Aaron Vaught had 14 and Jared Wilkerson chipped in 10. Kevin Kendall scored six, Adam Miller had five, Brad Mercer scored three, and Ben Hyde-Hanus tacked on a two-spot as well for the Rebels.
“They shot outstanding. They are the real thing. They are as good as any team I’ve seen this year,” Robinson said. “Their 6-8 center can shoot. They have speed, their guard play is excellent, and they are probably the best passing team we’ve seen this year. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them make a long run in the tournament.”
The decision not to play Mercer was made about an hour and a half before tip-off after electric-pulse therapy and icing left the junior at about 50 percent.
“There are too many more games left in the season to risk injuring it more,” Robinson said. “If he’d played at 100 percent, it might have been a better game for a half. Center Grove had their share of put-backs in the game, and I would hope that Brian being in there would help off-set some of that. Defensively, we just couldn’t keep up with (Center Grove). We didn’t play that bad, and in fact I think we would have beaten a lot of teams playing the way we did. Just not that one on that night.”
Robinson lauded the play of Wilkerson and Adam Miller, who helped take the brunt of the scoring for Mercer.
The Trojans, who advanced to the Super Hoops championship game against Columbia City, were led by Joel Hobson’s 24, Eric McClurg’s 18 and Jordan Coffey’s 13.
S.C. 73, Merrillville 61
Even with a 27-20 lead at the half against Merrillville, South Central’s coaching staff was unhappy about its team’s offensive output. The defense was there, but the squad was somewhat lethargic on the other end of the court.
What else was there to do but turn up the gas in the second half?
Powered by Brian Mercer’s 27 points — including 14 in the third and fourth quarters — and Craig Schoen’s 25 (with 8 of 9 free throws), South pulled away from the physical Pirates thanks to a 10-2 run in the final three minutes.
After the slow start, the up-tempo game in the second half was a cure-all for the Rebels, who still kept a line-in-the-sand attitude towards Merrillville.
“I think that halftime score was misleading because we missed three or four layups that would have put us at 35 points, which is right about where we want to be in a game,” Robinson said. “I think we forgot to run the floor in the second quarter. We came in at halftime and emphasized that we had to get the basketball out and speed (Merrillville’s) game up a little bit. They don’t like to do that.”
Just over two minutes into the second half, speedy Merrillville freshman point guard Dennis Howell, who’d bombed a pair of three-pointers to open the half and held Schoen to 11 points, was hit with his third foul of the game. His coach, Jim East, refused to take him out. Five ticks later, Howell picked up foul No. 4. East sent for a sub, but before the switch could be made, Howell fouled out on a hand-check.
Merrillville’s infuriated coach blasted the officials and was slapped with a technical foul. Schoen swished both technical shots to put his club up, 32-26. The Rebels went on a 16-7 run from that point, which included a pair of Mercer dunks.
Late in the contest, Merrillville closed to within four, 63-59, when Igor Ristevski got the hot hand. However, South slammed the door with a 10-2 run in the final minutes — highlighted by a dazzling no-look pass from Schoen to Mercer for the easy deuce. Brad Mercer closed the game out with four free throws for the Rebels.
“The box score doesn’t tell the whole story at all,” Robinson said. “The defense we got out of Jared the whole night was as important as anything. We got good play out of Brent Wilkerson, Ben (Hyde-Hanus), Adam (Miller) and Kevin (Kendall), too. Everyone gave us what we needed from them to get for us to be successful. They were just as aggressive as our main front-line players were.”
Aaron Vaught had a strong game for South with 14 points and was 2-2 at the line. He and Mercer made life extremely difficult for Kansas State-signee Justin Johnson, who was held to six points. Every time Johnson touched the ball, he was immediately swarmed by two, three and sometimes four Rebels.
The Rebels were 17 of 19 from the three-point line while Merrillville hit just seven of 15 attempts. South was paced by Mercer’s 27. Schoen scored 25 with one triple and was 8-9 effort at the line; Vaught packed in 14 points and was a perfect 2-2 at the charity stripe, and Brad Mercer tossed in seven on 4-4 shooting at the line.
Ristevski led the crusade for the Pirates with 18 points while Allen Bobowsky chipped in with 10 in the loss.
S.C. 78, Northeastern 65
Coming into the tournament, Robinson was concerned about how his club would shoot in the old West Gym, which is the sunk-down style similar to those at Springs Valley, Brownstown and Loogootee. The only goal hall that South plays in even close to the design is at Pekin Eastern, which utilizes the same in-the-round seating, but with less shooting-background space.
As a team, the Rebels shot 29 of 54 (54 percent) and were 4-12 (33 percent) beyond the arc. That statistic, as well as out-rebounding the Knights, 39-27, helped snuff out a comeback effort to the tune of a 78-65 victory.
South opened the contest on a 19-2 run, with Northeastern’s only basket during the stretch coming on a jumper by Ryan Seal with 6:34 showing. The Knights didn’t score another basket until 90 ticks were left in the quarter. Along the way, four of South Central’s five starters knocked down shots. Kendall had two straight jumpers, Schoen connected on two free throws and a triple, Jared Wilkerson had an easy duece, and Brad Mercer popped a 12-footer.
The Knights, led in scoring by Cory Ross’ 14 and Brian Kaufmann’s 13, charged back into the game using the long ball; however, the 17-point hole they dug in the first quarter was too much to overcome.
Northeastern cut the lead to six with 3:19 left on a Ross jumper and got the ball back on one of South’s 15 miscues in the game. Brad Mercer picked Ross’s pocket, however, to help ignite a 10-1 run in the last 2:30. The final exclaimation point came with 13 seconds left when Vaught slammed home his third dunk of the game to set the final score.
Vaught scored 20 points and was 6-6 from the line, Schoen had a game-high 24, Brian Mercer threw in 14 points, and Brad Mercer scored eight. Wilkerson and Kendall added six apiece.
The Knights were 24 of 63 from the floor (38 percent) and 6 for 25 (24 percent) in three-point tries.