Rebels rally late to clip Eagles
By Brandon Miniard, Sports Writer, [email protected]
Despite the first snow of 2022 causing issues on roadways throughout Kentuckiana, that didn’t stop South Central Junior-Senior High School from hosting a sell-out crowd in its first home game of the new year, as well as its annual homecoming festivities.
Only small slivers of bleacher space were left unoccupied as the host Rebels welcomed archrival Lanesville in a Harrison County and Southern Athletic Conference showdown. Both squads looked to start the new year off right as they each finished 2021 with just two victories apiece.
As expected of one of the top rivalries in Southern Indiana, the contest was as much of a roller coaster as the two teams’ seasons to this point. In the end, the contentious affair ended with a late rally by the Rebels resulting in a 57-50 victory.
“Lanesville’s a lot like us; we’ve been a roller coaster as have they, and tonight’s game was a roller coaster ride,” Rebels’ head coach Greg Robinson said. “We wanted to control Maddex Miller off the dribble, though we didn’t do a good job of that because he’s pretty quick. We really didn’t want Jack Crosby to get going, and I thought we did a pretty good job at that.”
“(South Central’s) got two really good guards (in freshman Cole Thomas and junior Christian Kiper) and we wanted to keep those two from getting as many looks as we can,” Eagles skipper Mikel Miller said. “Offensively, we talked this week about trying to get the ball down inside regardless of if they were in man-to-man or 1-3-1. There are times that we’re not doing a good job of getting the ball inside.”
The contest began as contentious as one would expect of this rivalry, despite the Rebels’ junior Ty Jones scoring the Rebels’ first five points. The opening act was a high-scoring affair as the Eagles got three points from junior center Kameron Walter, buckets from Maddex Miller and junior forward Jackson Schneider and triples from juniors Crosby and forward C.J. Baumgart.
Jones’ first five points were part of an eight-point period, followed by buckets from Kiper and junior Kole Stewart, alongside a basket from sophomore forward Ethan Hedden. With a slim 14-13 lead in the waning seconds, junior guard Craig Simpson fired a long-distance fadeaway, whipping the Rebels’ faithful into a frenzy as it tickled the twine to give the home squad a 17-13 edge.
Baumgart continued his strong play in the second quarter as he led the Eagles with seven points. That made up 70% of the Eagles’ offense in the period as they could muster only a bucket from Miller and a free throw from senior guard Carter Smith. The Rebels capitalized with four points from Stewart, a bucket from sophomore guard Caden Bogan and a Jones freebie.
Leading the Rebels in the second quarter was freshman guard Cole Thomas, who started his night with six points. His last two points of the period came in the first half’s final seconds as one last layup sent the Rebels soaring to the locker room leading 30-23.
Whatever Coach Miller told his squad at halftime seemed to resonate with the Eagles as they came out firing in the third quarter. Starting with another Baumgart three, the Eagles spent the period on a 20-7 run, fueled by a three from junior guard Dawson Teeter, buckets from Maddex Miller, Schneider and junior forward Ethan Patterson, as well as a combined five for six from the charity stripe by Smith, Walter and junior center Lucas Frazier.
The Rebels could only counter with seven points courtesy of a Kiper three and a combined four for six from the free-throw line by Hedden, Jones and Stewart. Patterson added fuel to the Eagles’ fire as he knocked down a triple in the period’s final seconds to send the Eagles into the fourth quarter with a 43-37 advantage.
“(Lanesville) had some guys step up that we didn’t expect to hit shots, so we had to adjust some things on the fly,” Robinson said. “Baumgart shot the ball great, and we didn’t necessarily see him in game film for a while. We weren’t expecting him to shoot like that, but, to his credit, he did.”
During the intermission between quarters, the Rebels knew the winds of change began blowing behind them, and the juniors led the charge with a Kiper triple and buckets from Jones and Stewart, followed by a Thomas basket. The Eagles felt their sails tearing apart offensively as they managed only seven points in the closing minutes, led by four from Miller, a bucket from Smith and a Crosby freebie.
The dagger came with the score tied at 50 when Hedden drew a foul against Walter on a block. While Hedden missed the first free throw, he put the Rebels ahead on his second.
“Ty’s a really good leader, and he was able to keep us in the game mentally,” Thomas said. “We knew that we had to dig out of the hole we created for ourselves. We just had to play a lot smarter than we did (earlier).”
“It wasn’t what I was saying to the guys; it was what they were saying to each other that hit home,” Robinson said of the intermission between the third and fourth quarters. “They were like ‘we’re not done yet’ and ‘we got eight more minutes.’ I didn’t have to say anything to these guys tonight. They picked themselves up, and they took care of business in the last quarter.”
Hedden’s go-ahead freebie appeared to throw the Eagles into a sense of over-urgency as rushed shots and passes led to intentional fouling, adding to the Rebels’ success at the free-throw line. For the period, the Rebels went 11 for 16 from the charity stripe to seal their first victory of 2022, 57-50.
“We came out hot in the third quarter, then, as the second half went along, we started taking dumb shots and making dumb passes,” Walter said. “Then in the fourth, we just played badly.”
Jones and Thomas led the way for the Rebels with a game-high 14 points apiece, while Stewart added nine. Baumgart paced the Eagles with 13, while Maddex Miller chipped in 10.
With the victory, the Rebels have now won four of their last six regular-season contests against the Eagles dating back to the 2016-17 season. For the Eagles, it’s the second time they have lost in Elizabeth in their past three visits.
“We were up 50-43, and I don’t think we ever scored again. I think we had some panicked, quick shots going down the stretch, had a couple turnovers, and (South Central) was playing solid half-court defense,” the Lanesville skipper said.
The Rebels finished off a successful weekend the following evening when they defeated Mitchell 56-40. They followed that with a trip to West Washington yesterday (Tuesday) to confront the Senators with an opportunity to get Robinson his 200th win of his 20-year head coaching career.
For the Eagles, they have another tough weekend ahead of them when they travel to Christian Academy of Indiana on Friday night in a battle of sectional rivals. They will return home the next night to welcome Class 1A No. 10 Orleans. Both contests are set to tip at 7:30.