Just about everything that could have gone wrong went wrong for the Shelbyville boys’ basketball team Friday night in the opening moments of its sectional semi-final against Center Grove.
The Golden Bears fell behind 13-0 in the first 4-1/2 minutes and were down 20-3 by the end of the quarter.
Shelbyville played a better second quarter, but by then, had dug too big a hole, and lost 64-40.
“First quarter, we just gave them too many second chances,” coach John Hartnett Jr. said.
“We knew that if they were going to shoot and miss, we can’t let them get the rebound. We can’t let them get extra opportunities to make buckets, so they did what we wanted them to do, shoot some outside shots. Unfortunately, to start the game, they hit a bunch of them. They hit a lot, and we didn’t have many shots fall.”
The Golden Bears watched Center Grove’s opening round game against Franklin Central, a game in which the Trojans struggled to shoot the ball but managed to escape with a 38-36 win.
“I told these guys after we came and watched Tuesday night, they’re going to come out and be ready to go Friday night,” Hartnett Jr., who finished out his first full season at the helm, said.
“They’re not going to miss this many shots, and they didn’t. They missed a lot of shots in the Franklin Central game, and then came out tonight and hit a bunch of shots. They’re a good ball team. That’s why they’re at the top of Class 4A.”
Indeed, the Trojans knocked down three 3-pointers during that 13-0 run at the start, two by senior Charlie Bemis and the third by sophomore Marcus Ankney. Center Grove closed out the quarter by going inside, getting contributions from juniors Tayven Jackson and Shane Bennett and senior Landin Hacker.
“We got a lot of open looks,” Hartnett Jr. said. “I think our guys were intimidated by their length and size, which it is intimidating when you’re going out there against a D-1 quarter, Tayvon Jackson. I thought after the first quarter, we got those jitters out a little bit and started playing better basketball.”
Jackson was a problem in the first half for the Golden Bears.
He scored 10 of his 14 points in that half on 4-for-7 shooting.
But the Bears battled back in the second quarter, opening it with a 7-0 run. Junior Jakob Heaton scored on a drive and senior Matthew Bunton scored on a layup off an inbounds pass and a 3-pointer. The run cut the deficit to 10 at 20-10.
“I’m extremely proud of our guys,” Hartnett Jr. said. “We did everything that we could and besides some shots not falling, I thought we did a decent job against these guys. They were a lot bigger than us and stronger, but that’s what we’re working to get to that level there.”
Shelbyville wasn’t able to sustain the run, however.
After shooting 1-for-10 from the field in the first quarter, the Golden Bears made five of their 12 shots in the second but gave up a 7-0 run that allowed the Trojans to again pull away. Center Grove led 31-17 at the half
Shelbyville’s coach told his team at halftime to keep competing and if they could get shots to fall, they would have to work to get stops. Doing that would get them back in the game.
Shelbyville got to within 10 again, 33-23, on a 3-pointer by Bunton less than a minute into the half, but the Trojans pulled away for good with six straight points.
“There were times we were able to cut it to single digits and then we’d give up two offensive rebounds and they’d score, which we can’t do that,” he said. “We did everything we possibly could against those big guys.”
Shelbyville loses seven seniors, six of whom saw significant minutes during the course of the season.
Hartnett Jr., who has been with them since they arrived in high school, credited them with being a big reason for the team’s success over the past four years.
The Golden Bears finished the regular season strong, winning three of their last four games.
“Those guys are great kids, they worked very hard, and they’re very coachable,” he said.
“They mean a lot to me and I tell them every day I love them. It was a little emotional in the locker room after the game just because we’ve all really meant something to each other. Those guys are going to continue to mean a lot to me and if they ever need anything in life, I’ll be there for them.”