Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

December 10, 2012

South off to best start in five seasons

Nick Gonnella
Greensburg Daily News

Greensburg — The South Decatur boys basketball team is off to its best start in five seasons following back-to-back wins this past weekend.

After climbing out of a double-digit hole in the first half Saturday, the hosting Cougars defeated Class 2A South Ripley 67-64 at home.

Head coach Tom Black applauded his team’s performance in the first six games of the season.

“We’re playing at a high level,” he said. “We’ve played at a high level for two nights in a row.”

The Cougars (6-0) have jumped out to its best start in five seasons, the most recent being a 7-0 start to open the 2008-2009 season.

Two seniors combined to score 41 points for South. Byron Balser led his team with 21 points, while Cameron Agnew scored a career-high 20.

The visiting Raiders actually led big to begin the game, seizing a double-digit lead until South made it 21-13 at the end of the first quarter.

The Cougars, however, went on an 18-5 run to go ahead 31-26. Agnew’s basket capped the run before the Raiders answered. Senior Byron Balser protected the lead with a pair of free throws and a late 3-pointer to end the half at 35-31.

Scores by Balser and senior Josh Miller made it 43-38 halfway into the third period, but Ripley reclaimed the momentum. A 3-pointer and a 3-point play gave the Raiders a 44-43 lead. The teams exchanged leads two more times. Balser put South back up by one at 1:52 of the third, and Ripley answered just seconds later. The Raiders went up by two with 40 seconds left, but South junior Taylor Kopplin’s rebound tip-in tied it 47-all at the buzzer.

Free throws were crucial in the fourth quarter as South made 12 of 16 in the final eight minutes. Two by Agnew reclaimed the lead for South, 49-47. The Raiders tied it once more before South took back the lead for good. Agnew scored on a pass from senior guard Jordan Hatton, making it 51-49. Junior Chris Johannigman’s free throws put South up by four. Moments later, five quick points from Balser put South up 60-52 with 5:16 left.

The Raiders would not go away quietly. They drew to within one, 63-62, as South committed five fouls in less than three minutes.

Seniors who did not appear prominently in the scorebook still factored into the win. South got possession when Ripley tipped the ball out of bounds with 1:04 left. Senior Josh Miller grabbed a defensive rebound, and Ripley fouled senior Jordan Hatton with 33.1 seconds left. The point guard sandwiched two free throws around a timeout, 65-62.

Another Miller defensive rebound ended the Raiders’ next possession. Capping the win were free throws by Miller and Agnew, providing the final three-point margin.

Balser hit 7-for-9 from the foul line to score 20. Agnew hit 7-of-8 from the stripe, and a trio of 3-pointers, for his career-best 20.

“Byron did a good job of getting to the foul line and getting to the paint,” said Black.

Kopplin followed with 11, including a trio of triples. Miller scored seven, while Hatton and Johannigman followed with four apiece.

“Chris Johannigman made huge plays for us late,” said Black. “Taylor Kopplin, not only statistically, made big plays for us defensively.”

Trey Sparks led all players with 28 for South Ripley. Cody Federman added 14.

The Raiders shot 13-for-17 from the line.

Black credited Hatton and Agnew for their offensive leadership on the court.

“We’re blessed to have two point guards on the floor,” he said. “They take care of the ball and run the floor well. You can’t say enough about a guy who can run the floor and make good decisions (Hatton). Cameron did a good job of clock management.”

Black commended his team for pulling off a win in the waning minutes.

“We had trouble finding ways to stay confident in the fourth quarter,” he said of teams in recent seasons. “Last year, we had too many plays go bad, and we ended up on the wrong end far too many times than we should have. So far this year, we’ve been in two of those games. Our kids pull up their boot straps and find ways to win. They’re resilient. There’s a confidence there right now. It’s exciting to watch. I hope that will continue. I hope their enthusiasm will continue, and there’s no reason right now to believe that it won’t. That confidence can carry us through a season and be competitive, and hopefully be ready in March, and that’s our goal, anyway.”

The South Decatur junior varsity team fell to South Ripley 44-33 in the first game. South led 7-6 after the first quarter, but the Raiders pulled ahead and led 15-14 at halftime. Ripley pulled away in the second half, leading 30-25 after three and taking the game by 11.

Sam Studler led South with 10 points. Andrew Wullenweber scored six, including a pair of 3-pointers. David Mize scored five with a triple, and Nick Grissom scored four. Scoring two apiece were Nick Schwering and Braydon Helms, while Randall Canady chipped in two.

The Cougars defeated Milan 55-22 in Friday’s home game.

South jumped out to an early 17-0 lead, and won going away.

Taylor Kopplin led South with 15 points. Balser followed with nine, while seniors Jordan Hatton and Ben Tichenor each scored eight. Senior Taylor Campos scored five points, his first points of the season. Cameron Agnew scored four points, while Josh Miller and Andrew Wullenweber each scored three. Tichenor’s eight points is a career-high.

Black said he was pleased to see several players get extended minutes Friday, including three off the bench and two with career-high’s.

“Everybody got to contribute,” said Black. “I like to see them getting the opportunity to contribute.”

The JV Cougars fell to Milan 37-22 in the first game Friday night. The Indians led after every stop. Sam Studler led South with six pionts (2-for-2 from the foul line). Nick Schwering scored five (one trey), while Braydon Helms added four. Randall Canady and Andrew Wullenweber added three apiece, and Nick Grissom chipped in one.

Contact Nick Gonnella at (812) 663-3111, x7003.