Boys Varsity Basketball · Stars dig deep to win Classic

Jan 11, 2020

CRAWFORDSVILLE – All season long, Western Boone head coach Josh Burkett has been stressing the defensive end of the court to his basketball team.

On Saturday night in the championship game of the Sugar Creek Classic, all the attention and focus paid off. Western Boone got steals on consecutive possessions in the final minute, and topped host Crawfordsville 59-54 to bring home the paddle for the first time since 2016.

“Possession after possession we were saying it – ‘a stop is going to get this,'” Burkett said. “Sure enough we got one and it was the determining factor in the game.”

Western Boone led 52-50 with 2:29 to go on a 3-pointer by Cortez Stoudemire, but on the next possession, Crawfordsville’s Karsten Williamson scored to tie the game.

Stoudemire hit two free throws with 1:44 left, but again Williamson had the answer with 1:21 to play, tying the game for the second time in the quarter.

Stoudemire was fouled on the Stars’ next possession, and after making the first free throw, he missed the second to give the Athenians a chance with 56 seconds to go.

Then it was time for the Stars’ defense to shine.

The Stars forced a loose ball as the Athenians brought the ball up the court, and Connor Hole dove on the floor to grab control of the ball and give possession to the Stars with 45 seconds left, and forced the Athenians to foul Spencer Wright with 31.1 to go.

“Connor is a leader of ours and leaves everything on the court all the time,” Burkett said. “He has great energy, even when he’s out and you can see it. I love Connor Hole, he is the type of kid that would run through a wall if you asked him too.”

Wright made both free throws to put the Stars up three, then poked the ball away from Williamson on the next possession to Stoudemire, who passed it back to Wright for a breakaway lay-up to seal the win.

To add to the defensive effort, the Stars forced the Athenians to miss four shots in the final 20 seconds to finish the game off.

“Coach wants us to be a good defensive team, and that will lead to our offense,” Wright said. “I feel like we did that tonight.”

Western Boone jumped out in front 14-4 in the opening five minutes, hitting 4-of-5 3-pointers in the first quarter.

They led by as many as 10 in the first half, before settling for a 27-22 lead.

Wright, who was named Sugar Creek Classic MVP, scored 10 of his game-high 19 points in the first half.

He finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds.

“Spencer is all over the place and is the best athlete on the court most nights,” Burkett said. “There are games like tonight where he has to guard someone bigger than him, and he just steps up to the challenge and he did a great job.”

Crawfordsville used a 13-5 spurt to take its first lead of the game with 3:55 left in the third quarter, but Wright had the answer on the next possession, giving Western Boone the lead again with a 3-pointer.

The Stars build the lead back up to five at the end of three quarters, and held that lead early in the fourth before a 6-0 mini run by the Athenians gave them a lead with 2:51 to play.

But once again WeBo had an answer, with Stoudemire’s 3 giving the Stars a 52-50 lead and setting up the frantic finish.

“We started off pretty strong, and in games past we had challenges where the other team came back and we didn’t know how to respond,” Burkett said. “We had adversity where they came back a couple times and took the lead, but we just kept hitting shots and staying steady. That was a heck of a game.”

Wright said that the Stars knew the Athenians were going to make a push and had to be ready for it.

“It’s all about heart,” Wright said. “We get collective confidence when we hit a shot on that next possession. Once we get that, we know that we can hit shots and knock them down in key times.”

Wright was joined on the all-tournament team by Jake Jones, who had 13 points and four rebounds on Saturday night.

Jones had 17 total points in the Stars first six games, but had 11 in the semifinal win before the 13 on Saturday.

“He played great,” Burkett said. “We was huge for us and made big shots for us. He has earned more minutes and this is nothing new for him once he has been on the court more. He has earned everything he has gotten.”

The Stars are now 4-4 and have won four of their last five.

Wright said the Stars are starting to get into a good rhythm.

“We were still in football shape the first couple of games,” Wright said. “Now we are getting our shots up, we are catching up in practice, running more plays and we are doing well defensively to get open shots. We are starting to get it together.”

The Stars travel to Frankfort on Friday night, then host Hamilton Heights on Saturday.

Burkett said he hopes the Sugar Creek Classic games can serve as a springboard for his team.

“This is huge for us,” Burkett said. “We have been in close games, but we hadn’t found a way to win those all the time. We knew this was going to be really competitive, we played two great games and we found a way to win it.”

Will Willems is the Sports Editor of the Lebanon Reporter and Zionsville Times Sentinel. Follow him on Twitter @Will_Willems.