BY JON REITER
The battle for the Mid-Southern Conference title hit high gear Monday night as Class 2A No. 6 Clarksville traveled to face Class 3A No. 5 Brownstown Central.
With Clarksville coach Jason Connell at home fighting the flu, his Generals went toe-to-toe with the Braves for four quarters but fell short, dropping their first conference game of the season 67-59. The Braves clinched a share of the MSC title with the victory.
“Brownstown is a good squad,” Clarksville assistant coach Brian McEwen said. “They’re 16-1 for a reason. It’s not smoke and mirrors — [Brownstown coach Dave Benter] always has them ready to play.”
At the outset, it looked like the Braves (16-1, 8-0 MSC) were going to run away with the contest. Behind the sharp shooting of senior forward Brett McCory, Brownstown jumped out to a 22-9 first-quarter lead.
“That start was huge,” Benter said. “Their guards are so good that if they get up and take a lead, they can really dictate the tempo. We knew it was going to be a game of runs, and we were fortunate enough to make that first one.”
During the first quarter, the 6-foot-4 McCory scored 13 points on 2-of-2 shooting from 3-point range, 3-of-3 shooting from inside the arc and sinking his only foul shot attempt.
Fortunately for Clarksville, he went scoreless in the second period as the Generals (12-4, 6-1) battled back.
Brownstown maintained a 13-point lead, 31-18, after Dylan Patman hit guard Chaz Schneider with a no-look pass in transition that led to a Schneider layup and delighted the partisan crowd with 2:34 remaining in the first half.
But Clarksville scored six unanswered points to close out the first half on two short jumpers by guard Calvin McEwen and another layup from Aidan McEwen with 20.5 seconds left in the first half. It was 31-24 at intermission.
“That run concerned me at the end of the first half,” Benter said. “But we knew we had Skyler [Thompson] coming back in the second half, and he ended up being a huge factor.”
Where McCory left off in the first half, Thompson, a 6-4 senior, picked up for Brownstown. Thompson scored 13 of his 15 points in the second half of the contest — including 11 points in the third quarter — as the Braves built a 48-36 advantage at the end of three.
Clarksville came back at Brownstown again in the fourth quarter, opening the frame with a 12-4 run that trimmed the advantage to 52-48 after reserve guard D.J. Coleman nailed a 3-pointer with five minutes remaining in the contest. After a McCory jumper and two free throws from Calvin McEwen, it was 54-50 with 3:30 remaining.
If anything, the smart, effective defense Clarksville played towards the end of the contest almost hurt them.
Having committed only one personal foul in the second half to that point, Brownstown killed nearly 1 minute and 30 seconds from the clock before Austin Snodgrass found McCory under the basket for an easy layup that made the score 56-50 Braves.
Using the remainder of their fouls took crucial time off the clock that the Generals could have used for a final comeback effort, and the Braves were able to put the contest away at the free-throw line.
“I looked at some of the other assistants and said, ‘We’re going to have to pick some up somewhere just so we can kind of narrow this,’” Brian McEwen said. “We kind of went too late with it. But about at that minute mark as they were extending their possession, we maybe should have gotten out there. But Brownstown — their kids played really well.”
McCory led Brownstown with 23 points. Calvin McEwen paced the Generals with 17.
Clarksville will host Mid-Southern Conference foe Salem (0-15, 0-7) on Thursday night.