Rebels finish 4th in Baird Winter Classic
Brandon Miniard, Sports Writer, [email protected]
After starting the season 1-5, the South Central Rebels looked to reverse their fortunes when they began to travel for holiday tournament action shortly after Christmas.
Just days after Christmas, the Rebels reconvened before traveling west to Huntingburg to take part in the Baird Winter Classic, hosted by Southridge High School.
Under the dim lighting of historic Huntingburg Memorial Gymnasium, the Rebels began tournament action by confronting the host Raiders. Things didn’t start overly well for the Rebels on the defensive end as the Raiders knocked down six three-pointers in the first half, including four in the opening quarter.
The Rebels countered the early onslaught with three triples in the opening half, all coming from freshman guard Cole Thomas. Thomas was the source of most of the Rebels’ points in the first half with 11, followed by buckets from juniors Kole Stewart and Christian Kiper and sophomore Ethan Hedden.
The third quarter started in similar fashion to the opening frame as the Raiders outscored the Rebels 16-10, sending the contest into the fourth quarter with the hosts leading 41-29. It did little to diminish the Rebels’ resolve as they spent most of the quarter on a 13-2 run.
With 8.5 seconds remaining, Thomas capped off a 24-point performance with a layup off a strong cut to the basket. Hedden followed with strong defense under the basket on the Raiders before getting fouled while recovering the loose ball. He made only one of his two free throws, but it was more than enough with one tick left as the Rebels completed a 45-43 come-back victory.
“We’ve been working on shooting the ball (in practice) and trying to get a lot of open shots,” Rebels’ freshman guard Cole Thomas said.
The Rebels returned to Huntingburg the following day to confront one of the tournament’s top teams in North Knox with a spot in the championship on the line. The contest seemed like a somewhat contentious affair initially when the Rebels kept pace with the Warriors, the former trailing the latter 12-7 after the opening period.
The small gap broke wide open in the second quarter when the Warriors shot their way to a 13-3 surge. After managing only a Hedden bucket and a free throw from junior Ty Jones during this surge, Thomas helped close the gap slightly with five points alongside a bucket from Kiper. Kiper shrunk the deficit even more when he was fouled with a tick left before the half, knocking down both freebies before heading to the locker room down 32-19.
“Our kids, they’re learning how to fight and I thought they played very hard,” Rebels’ head coach Greg Robinson said. “We’ve got to fight for that spot inside because we’re never gonna be taller than most teams.”
The Rebels managed to shrink the gap back into single digits in the third quarter, led by another five points from Thomas, a Jones triple and buckets from Kiper and Hedden. The Warriors kept pace with five points from Ian Kixmiller, followed by buckets from Holtman Doades and Rhett Sheren to give the Warriors a 41-31 advantage heading into the fourth quarter.
“We started playing a lot better than we did in the first half,” Thomas said. “We started to press and created some chaos then hit open shots.”
“We started pressing a little bit more, put some pressure on (North Knox) and sped them up a little,” Robinson said of the third quarter. “We got a couple turnovers and were able to capitalize, but they probably wore us out just a bit.”
The final period was not as contentious as the previous frame as Doades led the way with the last six of his game-high 15 points. Sheren followed with a three-point play, and Mason Lyons added two free throws. The Rebels could only counter with a bucket apiece from Hedden, junior Craig Simpson and freshman Tanner Smith to finalize the Rebels’ 52-37 defeat.
“It’s hard to play against a team that has as much experienced size as North Knox; they’re a very senior team and they’ve got some good big kids,” Robinson said. “They did a really nice job of finding matchups and making the matchups happen, but they also shot the ball pretty well.”
The Rebels took one last ride to Huntingburg Memorial Gym on Thursday, where they confronted Class 1A No. 10 Orleans in the third-place game. While the Rebels were motivated to try and get back into the win column, that wouldn’t happen against the Bulldogs, who held the Rebels’ offense to no more than six points per quarter en route to a 59-23 loss.
Kiper led the Rebels with 11 points in both losses, while Thomas recorded 10 points against North Knox and four against Orleans. Across the three games of the tournament, the freshman notched a combined 38 points.
Despite leaving Huntingburg with only a single win in three attempts, the Rebels will look to continue improving to begin 2022. That road to improvement will begin at home on Friday night, when they welcome county rival Lanesville for a Southern Athletic Conference showdown at 7:30.