Posted: Sunday, March 8, 2015 12:15 am
SHARPSVILLE – With the clock winding down in the final quarter and a double-digit lead, the Rossville Hornets boys’ basketball team and their abundant student section began the celebration, knowing the team was on the verge of winning its second consecutive sectional title.
The Hornets held off the Carroll Cougars 53-41 during Saturday’s 1A sectional championship at Tri-Central. It was the second sectional championship for several returning players, but the first championship for head coach Cory Dunn, who’s in his ninth year as head coach, and first year coaching Rossville.
“As a coach you work countless hours, the guys put in countless hours as players, and I think that’s what makes it so special,” he said after cutting down the net. “It’s a sectional. You never take it for granted, you prepared all season long for it, and to finally be able to win one as a coach; there’s times as a coach you wonder, ‘Man, am I ever going to get that opportunity?’”
“I kept telling the guys get to Saturday night, get to Saturday night,” he added. “Each night we got to win this game to get to the next game. I didn’t care who we were playing tonight. We were just going to play our game.”
Senior Clayton Howard, who led the Hornets with 19 points, is one of the returning members from last year’s sectional championship team.
“We knew we wanted to defend it, and we knew they’d be gunning for us,” he said after the game. “It feels awesome to defend it and get another one.”
Senior Neil Beery, who finished the game with five points and two rebounds, said he’s been waiting a long time to get his first sectional championship.
“I’ve dreamed of it all my life,” he said. “It’s the best thing ever.”
After a slow start, including an early 6-0 deficit, the Hornets fought back and found themselves down 13-12 after the opening period of play. A strong defensive second quarter, in which the Hornets shut out the Cougars during the opening six minutes, gave Rossville a 23-18 lead at halftime.
The game remained close in the third quarter until Beery and sophomore Matt Homco (7 points) each made a 3-pointers, giving the Hornets a 33-25 lead. Rossville took a 6-point lead into the final quarter of play.
Rossville saved its strongest offensive attack for the fourth quarter, outscoring Carroll 18-12 during the final eight minutes of play to help seal the victory.
“We knew we had to go up-tempo because we know they’re a big team,” Howard said. “We just wanted to speed up our tempo and make it our game.”
Rossville has won five of its last six games, including three sectional tournament wins, to improve to 11-15 overall on the season.
“We had a tough schedule all year, and we wanted to peak at this time and that’s what we did,” said senior Kyle Bordner, who had four points and two rebounds. “We’ve really been screening hard, we’ve been stepping up our defense and getting good shots on offense.”
Rossville will now play in the Frankfort regional semifinals Saturday at noon with the advancing team playing in the final at 8 p.m. The Hornets will take on the winner of the North Vermillion sectional, which was decided Monday, in the regional semifinals.