Playing in front of the men who helped lay the foundation for Batesville basketball, the Bulldogs stepped up their play to knock off the visiting Connersville Spartans, 47-43, Saturday night (Jan. 25).

Grabbing the slim lead early in the fourth quarter, Batesville fended off its Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference rival; it’s the fourth straight year in the annual series the win has gone to the home team.

“I told them, let’s get 1% better than last night and the scoreboard will take care of itself,” said Bulldog head coach Aaron Garrett, acknowledging the alumni from the 1940s-70s in the home bleachers. “Let’s put an effort together that all the alums will be proud to see. We certainly did that.”

Carter Bodwell put the Spartans within one possession at 46-43 and CHS head coach Kerry Brown called timeout at 15.8 seconds to set up the press. The hosts were unable to inbound and called timeout themselves. Finally getting it into the hands of senior Colt Meyer, the BHS guard was called for an elbow much to the crowd’s ire.

After a Spartan timeout, Clay Garrison committed a double dribble. Junior RJ Powell hit 1 of 2 at the line to ice the win.

On the strength of four 3-pointers from junior Jonah Graham, the guests built their largest lead at 19-8 with under a minute to go in the first period. Junior Sam Voegele had sandwiched in a jumper between two Graham bombs, but Garrett called time with his team trailing 11-6. The Spartans went on an 8-2 run before Powell dropped in a bucket to end the frame.

“They hit us for five 3s in that first quarter, but we weren’t abandoning the zone,” said Garrett. “People may have asked, ‘What am I thinking?,’ but I’ve got faith in my guys. We continued to mix up zone and man and added some token pressure with (sophomore) Thomas Raver at the front, making things uncomfortable for Connersville.”

Meyer scored his first points of the night to cut it to 19-14. CHS senior Ethan Smith answered with two but injured his knee on the play and would not return.

Slowing down the pace, three minutes ticked off before a drive by Garrison. The Dogs, held scoreless for almost five minutes, redeemed themselves with a nice final minute. Powell’s three trimmed the deficit to six. With time running out, senior Charlie Dice received a fortuitous foul on a desperation heave behind midcourt. His three charities made it 23-20 at the break.

The Spartans’ 6-foot-7 Jacob Brown had zero points in the first half, but opened the second with a layup and 15-footer. Meyer’s conventional 3-point play pulled BHS within four at 27-23. Their next trip down, the Bulldogs scored on a kickout three by Powell (Dice assist).

Two free throws by Meyer started a string of seven lead changes to close the stanza and open the fourth. Cole Martin finished off a pair of nice interior passes for the Spartans. For the Bulldogs, it was Voegele stroking one from the baseline and Powell converting an off-balance drive.

“RJ had the best weekend of his career,” praised Garrett. “He had a couple big shots Friday and tonight he played in rhythm, not forcing anything but just catching and shooting.”

Meyer’s 4-of-4 from the line put BHS up 38-35 with 4:14 remaining. Brown just missed a 3-point play, but Voegele came up big with a three from the corner. CHS made it a two-point game when Tobey Billups found Martin under the basket at the 2:15 mark. The Spartans had a couple key turnovers in the next minute; the Dogs hit 6 of 8 foul shots down the stretch.

Meyer led all scorers with 17 and Graham finished with 15. Powell and Garrison each had 11. Dice put in 9 and Voegele 7.

“Our guys have had a tough season so far, but never have I lost confidence in them,” explained Garrett. “I know what we have, it’s just a matter of putting some things together.

“There were some tough situations down the stretch,” he went on. “For us to close out like we did and see some leaders emerge under pressure, it doesn’t get better than that.”

Batesville (4-8, 2-2) will host North Decatur Friday and Hauser Saturday night. Friday is the annual Garrett’s Gang night (and 1st-grade Night). Saturday, alumni from the 1980s-90s will be on hand to continue the boys basketball centennial celebration. Special recognition will go toward the 1994 regional champs.

AT FRANKLIN COUNTY (Jan. 24)

Batesville started its perfect conference weekend with a 55-40 win at Franklin County Friday.

Voegele was high-point man with 18. Meyer contributed 13 and Dice 11. Freshman Brant Ertel led the Wildcats with 12 tallies and Bridger Bolos added 10; Chad Cox and Aden Gerrian each scored 9.

Will Fehlinger can be contacted at sports@batesvilleheraldtribune.com or 812-934-4343, ext. 220112