Rossville falls to Western
Posted: Saturday, December 13, 2014 11:44 pm
ROSSVILLE – The Rossville boys’ basketball team had hoped for a better ending Saturday night after jumping out to an early seven-point lead against Western at home, but the Panthers half-court pressure defense caught up with them in the third quarter and the Hornets fell 61-45 in a non-conference match.
Clayton Howard scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for Rossville (2-5) but it was not enough to overcome a cold-shooting third quarter that saw Western seize the lead for good. Trailing 25-21 at halftime, the Hornets opened the third quarter with three turnovers over the first two minutes.
Two Des Balentine free throws, a Zach Shahan layup and a 3-pointer by Gabe Harp pushed Western’s advantage into double-digits for the first time, 32-21 over the same stretch. Austin Weaver added two more 3-point shots to get the Panthers lead to 17 points (41-24).
The Hornets would never get the game into single-digits again as Rossville shot 2 for 12 from the field in the period.
“Weaver torched us,” Rossville coach Cory Dunn said. “I thought Weaver was their rock and steady guy for them. The start of the third quarter forced us to play catch up again. We have yet to figure out how the take care of the basketball, but we’ve got to keep competing.”
It was a complete reversal of fortune from the first four minutes of the game, where Rossville jumped on Western early to grab a 9-2 lead. The Hornets defense forced Western to miss four of its first five shots from the field as Howard scored four points and Matt Homco another five on two free throws and a 3-point shot.
But Balentine, Western’s best player, single-handedly led the Panthers back into the game with less than four minutes left to go in the opening period.
The 6-foot-1 senior drilled a 3-pointer, then stole a pass from a Rossville guard on the Hornets next possession and converted it into an easy layup. He then followed that up with a blocked shot and a rebound and another Western layup on its next possession.
After another Rossville turnover, Balentine freed himself up again for a 15-foot jumper and Western had an 11-9 lead with 1:59 left in the quarter. He scored nine points in the run and 11 points in the first quarter, allowing the Panthers to take a 16-11 lead after the first eight minutes.
“We talked about it as a team to come out with intensity and not get down early because we’ve been doing that the past couple of games,” Balentine said. “I looked at the clock and saw we hadn’t scored in a couple of minutes and I kind of took matters into my own hands and tried to get to the basket. I just tried to do whatever was needed to get the team motivated.”
Despite the loss, Dunn said there is plenty of time to get things corrected for games that really matter – league play in the Hoosier Heartland Conference and postseason.
“It’s not the last game of the season,” Dunn said. “The players shouldn’t sit around and dwell on this. That’s for the coaching staff to do. It’s still a measuring stick for us. We still have a big conference game coming up on Friday (at Carroll). They should just let the coaches figure out the things to do that will make us better.”
Dunn praised his team for their effort so far this season giving them a “C” average over the first seven games.
“This has been a tough weekend for us,” Dunn said, referring to playing a state-ranked team in Lafayette Central Catholic and then a Class 3A school in Western. “Except for one game, the effort has really been there. If we keep battling, by March I think we can be at that ‘A’ caliber.”