By JON REITER
The third time was the charm for the Clarksville boys’ basketball team, which avenged two earlier losses to crosstown rival Providence with a 39-35 win to advance to Friday night’s 2A sectional semifinal against Pekin Eastern.
“We’ve got at least one more game to play, but I’m going to let these kids enjoy this one tonight, and it’ll be back to work tomorrow,” said Clarksville (16-5, Class 2A No. 8) coach Jason Connell.
In the night’s first game, Henryville was defeated by sectional host Crawford County 82-46.
The Pioneers defeated the Generals 38-36 in the final of the Silver Creek Holiday tournament on Dec. 29, and turned back Clarksville again 60-51 on Jan. 4.
But Tuesday’s game was a different story, with the Generals jumping out to an early lead and holding off the Providence (17-4, No. 3) attack throughout the third and fourth quarters.
Behind the play of guards Calvin McEwen and Andrew Jones, the Generals built a 23-13 halftime lead on the Pioneers.
Jones scored Clarksville’s first five points on a dribble-drive layup and 3-pointer, which gave the Generals an early 5-2 lead wtih 4:55 remaining in the first quarter.
It was 10-6 after the end of the first quarter. Jermargio Smith and Aidan McEwen opened the second quarter for Clarksville by scoring baskets on consecutive possessions, but a 3-pointer by Pioneer guard Cory Cahalan cut the lead to 14-9 with 5:50 remaining in the first half.
Riding the shoulders of Jones and McEwen, Clarksville embarked on a 9-0 run over the ensuing three minutes that gave Clarksville a 23-9 lead with 2:49 remaining in the half. The duo scored all 9 points during the run.
“It is very rare for a 2A team to have four guys [including Jones and McEwen] who can handle the ball flawlessly like that,” Providence coach Lou Lefevre said. “They played very well in the first half, and they were able to run their offense until we made some kind of mistake on defense that they were able to cash in on.”
Over the remainder of the first half, the Pioneers held the Generals scoreless, and baskets by George Knott and Ryan Pickerell narrowed the margin to 10 at the half.
The Pioneers began cutting into the Clarksville advantage during the third period. Back-to-back 3-pointers from Dalton Duley cut the General lead to 25-21 with 5:03 remaining, and the score was 27-23 at the end of the third quarter.
After an inside basket and successful free throw attempt by Ryan Pickerell with 3:09 remaining, Providence trailed 32-31. They were able to trim the deficit to one on two other occasions throughout the remainder of the contest but couldn’t get over the hump despite from poor free throw shooting from Clarksville.
After Clarksville went into the bonus, Jones, Aidan McEwen and Calvin McEwen all missed the front end of one-and-ones.
Duley missed a 3-point attempt with eight seconds remaining that would have given the Pioneers the lead, but Aidan McEwen grabbed the rebound and was fouled. He missed both free throws with his squad leading 37-35, but a Providence turnover with three seconds remaining sealed their fate.
Aidan McEwen finally converted two foul shots with one second remaining to close out the contest.
“I just told the kids, we did everything we could towards the end of the game to give it away,” Connell said. “[If] we hit those free throws, we’re up and can breathe a little easier. But great teams or good teams find a way to win. We made plays, and for the most part this season we’ve done that. It was a great ballgame by two really good teams.”
Jones led Clarksville with 12 points, and Calvin McEwen added 11. Knott and Pickerell added 10 apiece for the Pioneers.
Clarksville will face Eastern in Friday night’s second game for the right to take on the Paoli-Crawford County winner in Saturday night’s championship. The game will begin following the Rams and Wolfpack’s 6 p.m. start.
Tuesday’s loss to the sectional host Wolfpack (14-7) wasn’t unexpected and it ended a tough 2012-13 campaign for the winless Hornets (0-20).
The challenges included enduring the transfer of their two leading scorers from last year’s squad and a tornado last season that destroyed their gymnasium, most of the school and a sizeable portion of the town itself.
The Hornets see leading scorer Tyler Collins and stalwart center Cody Reister depart, but return a nucleus of sophomores and juniors that will be tested and ready to improve, according to coach Dan Carmony.
Knowing what they faced going into this season, Carmony said his players emerged winners despite their record.
“You know, the first win we had this season was when we played our first game. The second one we had was when we played our first home game,” Carmony said. “Really, it’s been an honor to get to know these kids. Our younger kids are going to have to get stronger over the summer and improve. But they’ve given me as much effort as I could have hoped for, and their resilience has really been impressive.”
In the loss, Collins led the Hornets with 13 points. Freshman guard Jacob Janek and sophomore forward Bailey Reister added eight apiece. Cody Reister finished his career with seven points in the loss.