Rebels fend off host Rock Creek
By Brandon Miniard, Sports Writer, [email protected]
While the previous week ended on the wrong foot, South Central has been playing strong basketball for much of the 2022-23 season.
After starting the season 1-4, the Rebels turned up the heat, as they went on to win eight of their next 10 contests. Those two losses came against ranked opponents, the first against then-Class 1A No. 2 Orleans in December. The second came on Jan. 21, when they lost to Class 2A No. 10 Southwestern (Hanover), marking the first time the Rebels have lost in Elizabeth this season.
Hoping the loss would be a speed bump on their way to the postseason, the Rebels traveled to Sellersburg last Tuesday to confront sectional-rival Rock Creek Community Academy. The Lions have struggled to get into the win column, despite being considered one of the sectional favorites in the preseason, coming into the contest with a 2-10 record. Those numbers are belied by the strength of their early schedule, which included only one game against a Class 1A foe, Christian Academy of Indiana.
The Rebels put in a strong effort inside despite contending with the Lions’ twin towers of 6-foot-7 forward Jaleb Treat and seven-foot center Marial Diper. The defense was solid in the first three quarters, holding the Lions to nine points per frame. While the Lions’ exploded to outscore their visitors 25-16, the Rebels were able to escape Elizabeth with a slim 55-52 victory.
“We wanted to make it really hard for (Rock Creek) to beat us inside, and, for the most part, I thought we did a pretty good job of making them shoot,” Rebels’ bench boss Greg Robinson said. “Offensively, we wanted to move ourselves and get the ball to our shooters, but that didn’t go quite the way I wanted it to in the first half. I thought our offense was better in the second half. Overall, it’s a good win because (Rock Creek)’s got some size, which has been a problem for us for a while, so I was proud of how we battled.”
The contest began as a defensive duel as neither side managed to score in the first two minutes before Rebels’ sophomore guard Cole Thomas put in a pair of buckets. The host Lions responded with nine straight, including five from Keajuan Beco and baskets from Treat and Gavon Taylor. Rebels’ junior Christian Kiper brought the Rebels back into a single possession with a jump shot.
In the final seconds, Rebels’ senior Kole Stewart attempted a three-pointer from the corner, but junior Caden Bogan caught the offensive board before putting it back at the buzzer, cutting the Lions’ edge to 9-8.
That lead didn’t last in the second quarter as the Rebels began the period with an 11-0 run, powered by a pair of Kiper buckets followed by a three-point play from sophomore Tanner Smith and buckets from junior center Ethan Hedden and Thomas. A bucket by Treat sparked a 9-1 response, four coming from the big forward along with five points from Memphis Jackson.
A Kiper free throw was the Rebels’ only answer during the run before a pair of Thomas freebies sent the guests to their locker room with a 22-18 advantage.
Buckets by Taylor and Treat helped the Lions tie the contest to begin the second half, but Kiper kept the Rebels ahead with 11 points, along with six points from Thomas. Beco added three points for the Lions along with a deuce from Kalaan Brown at the buzzer to cut the Rebels’ lead to 39-27.
The Lions’ offense exploded in the final period as Diper joined the scoring assault with eight points, along with six from Treat, four apiece from Jackson, Brown and Taylor and a triple from Beco. Aside from a pair of buckets from Kiper and a Smith deuce, the remainder of the Rebels’ late scoring came at the charity stripe. Thomas, Hedden, senior Ty Jones and sophomore Jarrett Ferree combined to go 10 for 13 at the foul line to help seal the Rebels’ 55-52 victory.
“(Rock Creek) started making some shots, and I might have been a little bit slow getting us out on those guys,” Robinson said. “They just kind of got into a rhythm.”
Kiper led all scorers with 22 points, while Thomas posted 19 points, 10 rebounds and five steals. Treat paced the Lions with 14, while Beco added 11, along with eight apiece from Taylor and Diper.
While the free-throw saga showed some improvement over their previous contest, it still wasn’t ideal for Robinson as his Rebels shot a hair under 72% on foul shots. The Lions shot 50% from the stripe.
“This is the second or third game where we’ve shot poorly from the free-throw line, and that’s something that we have to correct,” Robinson said. “(Rock Creek)’s shots wouldn’t have made much of a difference if we would have hit the free throws, so that’s something we have to improve on. To beat good teams, we have to win it at the free-throw line down the stretch.”
The Rebels returned home on Friday to confront Henryville in a huge Southern Athletic Conference tilt, falling short against the Hornets 49-46 before bouncing back the following night with a 66-49 victory at Clarksville. They will head back to Clarksville tomorrow (Thursday) to face off against Class 2A No. 7 and defending 2A state champ Providence. Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m.