The Rushville Lions came to Batesville Thursday night, Feb. 8, with an underwhelming 4-13 record in 2017-18. They squared off against a Bulldog unit that had won eight of its last nine games.
None of those factors seemed to matter once the ball was put in play. The scrappy Lions parlayed a 12-2 explosion at the end of the first half into a fairly comfortable 68-55 road conference victory, winning for a third consecutive time while shooting over 56 percent from the field and matching their largest offensive output of the season.
"Credit to Rushville, they had a lot of guys step up and hit shots," noted BHS head coach Aaron Garrett. "At times tonight, the Batesville across our chests meant more to them than it did us. With only four wins, they were motivated to knock off a Greensburg (Feb. 1), then knock off a Batesville ... that means a lot to them."
A 20-20 game late in the second quarter after an Isaac Barker score, Lion senior Austyn Farley created the first in a series of transition opportunities when his steal led to a traditional 3-point play. Mason Springman was then fouled on a rebound basket; his charity toss was off target, leaving a 5-point margin with a minute left. Back-to-back pilfers and conversions by Farley and Springman quickly upped the advantage to 29-20. A driving two from Barker only temporarily quieted the visiting crowd. With less than three seconds to go, the inbound went to Tyler Wilson, who released a perfect buzzer-beater from well beyond the midcourt stripe.
"It was a terrible end of half in terms of uncharacteristic turnovers," said Garrett. "They get a couple run-out layups, then we don't pick up (Wilson). They continued playing hard the rest of the game, creating space and letting Farley drive and dish while the perimeter guys played H.O.R.S.E."
With their newly acquired double-digit lead (32-22), Rushville stayed on the offensive through the opening minutes of the second half. A three by Batesville's Colt Meyer was equalized on the other end by Gage Rosenfeld.
On BHS' next possession, Meyer cut the deficit to seven with another 3-pointer. Following a second big block by Robert Raver, Batesville made it a 5-point game when Barker took the rejected shot and went coast to coast.
Cameron Craig then popped a triple from straight away on the Lions' next series. A 39-31 score, the guests responded to a pair of Raver free throws with a Springman jumper and Craig's strong finish in the post. At 2:01, Rosenfeld's three gave Rushville its biggest lead at 46-35. Barker would then answer from long range, but Farley criss-crossed the lane for two to help the visitors go up 48-39 with a quarter to play.
"We usually don't give up straight-line layups, but tonight we gave up layups galore," Garrett rued, "so that tells you it was a lack of communication, rotation and anticipation. It's impressive what our young men have accomplished defensively, but it wasn't there tonight."
Lion momentum carried into the fourth, as center Jacob Ray scored down low and Wilson knocked down a 3-pointer. Raver then completed an old-fashioned 3-pointer before Farley wiggled out of a double-team for an easy lay-in; after a timeout, Farley went in for two more uncontested and a 57-42 Rushville lead.
It was still an 8-point contest when the Lions were called for 5 seconds with just over two minutes left. Batesville couldn't capitalize on the turnover and was forced to build up fouls to put the opponent at the line. Rushville shot 14 free throws in the final 1:42, sinking 11.
A Barker 3 got scoring underway in the game's first minute and Meyer's fast-break score later made it 6-2. Baskets in the paint by Springman and Ray tied things midway through the frame. After another Barker trey, four points by Farley gave the visitors their first lead. Rosenfeld answered a Raver hoop with a 3-pointer, putting the Lions up 13-11 after one.
Springman knocked down an 18-footer out of the huddle and Rosenfeld scored in transition to make it 17-14. A basket by Lane Westerfeld later knotted the game at 18, preceding a pair of 3-second calls on the Bulldogs and another Springman field goal.
"We just weren't connected, weren't seeing the next play quick enough and never got into a rhythm tonight," said Garrett. "We have to find a combination of guys who are completely unselfish, pass and share the basketball, make the best decisions and play tight defensively."
For the Bulldogs, Barker and Raver each scored 15 and Meyer posted 13; Westerfeld contributed 7. Springman led all scorers with 17 points, as Farley garnered 16 and Craig 12. Ray added 9, Rosenfeld 8 and Wilson 6.
VS. EAST CENTRAL (FEB. 10)
The Bulldogs hosted East Central Saturday afternoon for their final Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference matchup. Ahead by double figures at one point in the first half, Batesville watched as the visiting Trojans fought back to claim a 54-51 win.
The fourth quarter boiled down to largely a duel from the free throw line, with EC successful enough to hold off the Dogs.
Barker led BHS with 12 points, as Westerfeld added 11 and Meyer 10. Raver chipped in 9 and Tyler Myers 6. Freshman Luke Collinsworth scored a game-high 17 for the Trojans (13-7).
Batesville (12-7, 3-4) ends its home schedule Friday, facing Jennings County. Saturday afternoon, the Bulldogs visit Beech Grove. East Central ended the weekend tied with Connersville atop the EIAC standings, each 4-1.
Will Fehlinger can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 812-934-4343, Ext. 112.