Southport upset No. 1 North Central before falling to No. 11 Lawrence N.
Senior staff writer
“We’ll keep fightin’.”
Those words from Southport boys basketball coach Kyle Simpson summed up the Cardinals’ near-colossal effort last week in the Marion County tournament.
After experiencing a 20-point letdown Jan. 8 against Franklin Central, Southport faced the challenge of bouncing back in the county tourney.
The Cardinals came back Tuesday in their tourney opener by defeating Roncalli 70-43, and then bumped off No. 1 North Central 70-48 before falling just one second short Friday of upsetting No. 11 Lawrence North in the semifinal opener at Southport Fieldhouse.
Southport’s man-to-man defense and a rejuvenated Joey Brunk came to life and ran off a 21-9 domination of the Wildcats in the final eight minutes and 50 seconds for a heart-pounding finish.
The final count, 53-52, came when the Wildcats’ Djimon Henson drove in for the game winning layup with 28 seconds remaining.
Southport put together a frantic finish right up to the final buzzer.
After two missed Southport shots and with the clock ticking down, Brunk chased down a long rebound to the right corner, flipped the ball to Paul Scruggs in the lane, but the game-ending buzzer sounded before the senior backcourt ace could get the shot off.
“We couldn’t hit shots in the first half, that was the bottom line,” Southport coach Kyle Simpson said. “When we went man-to-man we sped things up in the second half; our kids didn’t quit.”
The two teams utilized zone defenses throughout the first half, but the quicker and more rangy Wildcats had a dominating 31-15 lead with 1:35 left in the first half.
Lawrence North enjoyed a 44-31 lead before the Cardinals’ aggressive man-to-man pressure handcuffed the Wildcats. Southport’s backcourt pressure forced the Wildcats into six turnovers in the fourth quarter.
Brunk, often triple-teamed, scored eight points, and Southport snared its only lead, 52-51 on freshman Harold Bennett’s lay-in with 53 seconds left.
Brunk had a team-high 15 points, and Eli Walton added 13 points. Scruggs had a frigid shooting night, hitting only 2-of-14.
The Cardinals connected on only 26.1 percent (6-of-23) of their shots in the first half. They warmed up and hit 46.4 percent, 13-of-28, in the second half.
“We took a lot of big steps this week,” Simpson said confidently. “We showed a lot of people that we’re coming around.”
Perry Meridian, 64-60 upset winners Wednesday over Franklin Central, ran into No. 4 Pike in the Friday nightcap. The Red Devils, coached by former Perry and Center Grove coach Bill Zych, won handily, 77-32.
The Falcons could not match Pike’s quickness, rebounding prowess and shooting ability. The Red Devils led 20-4 at the first stop and kept rolling.
Nine Falcons scored, with Nate Mills scoring a team-high six points.
Pike hit 30-of-54 shots and outrebounded the Falcons 33-10.
Falcons coach Brent Keck still was pleased with the week’s results after defeating Speedway and Franklin Central.
“We did a good job of recognizing certain situations (against Franklin Central),” Keck said. “We handled their pressure and our kids made big plays. We also made stops late in the game.”
Mills shared game-high 24-point honors with the Flashes’ Marcus Burk. Brandon Perry came up with 15 points for the Falcons.
The Flashes won the tourney opener against Speedway 55-50.
Southport, Franklin Central and Perry Meridian were the only Southside teams to advance past the first round.
Johnson county tourney
Center Grove reached the Johnson County tourney championship game Saturday for the second straight season but fell to Whiteland 48-46 in a thriller.
The Warriors’ Terre Moss hit a pair of game-winning free throws with 17 seconds left. The Trojans’ last-second shot by leading scorer Nate McLain, who tallied 14 points, bounced off the rim.
The Trojans reached the title game by defeating Franklin 63-52 behind the scoring and rebounding prowess of 6-6 freshman Trayce Jackson-Davis, who recored a career-high 25 points and seven rebounds. His 14-point scoring binge pulled his teammates from a 21-10 deficit to a three-point lead.
The Trojans connected on 11-of-12 free throws to regain the lead late in the fourth quarter.