If the Batesville Bulldogs were interested in defending their past three Ripley County Tournament titles, they first had to get past a scrappy, lanky South Ripley squad Wednesday (Jan. 8) in their home confines.

A very tight affair throughout, the Bulldogs kept the Raiders off the scoreboard in the final 2:49 and gained separation for a 52-39 win. This snapped a six-game losing streak for the club.

“It’s tough when you keep getting close loss after close loss,” said Bulldog head coach Aaron Garrett. “I know we have that warrior spirit but we needed to show a warrior attitude. You saw that attitude in the second half, when South Ripley came out and took a lead.”

Three baskets out of the break by junior Cody Samples – including a 3-pointer – had the Raiders up 28-23.

The well ran dry for the visitors, as their next points came from Cory Ralston with time running out in the period. By that time, Batesville had gotten a Lleyton Ratcliffe field goal, two jumpers from junior Sam Voegele, a charging call against Samples, a lay-in by senior Jacob Deutsch, a transition score from senior Charlie Dice and a South timeout at the 2:02 mark. Going into the last frame, it was 33-30 in favor of BHS.

Samples’ deep ball tied the game early in the fourth, followed by sophomore Thomas Raver’s assist to a cutting Dice. A three by Ralston flipped the lead, but Voegele finished on the block to make it 37-36. Senior guard Colt Meyer then connected for three of his game-high 25 points.

“Colt’s a scorer, but he did some of the little things tonight,” said his coach. “He made the extra passes, had blockouts on the defensive end, and he and RJ (Powell) did a good job orchestrating the top of our zone, especially finding Samples.”

Aside from Bryce Franklin slipping in for two uncontested putbacks in the first half, the Bulldogs were pretty solid in their new-look defense.

“Essentially, you saw what strengths our players have in this zone,” Garrett said. “It takes a lot of time to teach. What makes me very pleased is the things we pointed out on film, the guys fixed on the floor tonight. We can show and teach but they’ve got to get it done.”

In the last two minutes, BHS got a 3-point play out of Dice and six more points by Meyer.

Seconds after winning the tip, Dice assisted on a Meyer field goal. Samples finished a 3-point play for a 3-2 lead. After a scoreless spell, Meyer hit a three and scored in transition. He and Samples traded 3s just before time ran out in the first.

Threes by Nick Schwarte and Zach Gentile tied the game at 14, but sandwiched in there was a basket by Deutsch; the senior released to the hoop to bail out a trapped Voegele in the corner.

“Jacob doesn’t get a lot of playing time, but works his rear end off every single day in practice,” said Garrett. “For that kid to get those big buckets and rebounds says some things for him.”

Before halftime, the teams put together five consecutive lead changes. Meyer’s free throws made it 21-20 at intermission.

“It was good to see some of our guys grow up tonight,” added Garrett. “We had that mindset and attitude ... we’ve got to continue to grow that.”

Supporting Meyer were Voegele with 8 points, Dice with 7 and Powell with 6. Samples tallied 19 points, as no other Raider topped 5.

BHS (2-6) will face Milan Saturday night, approximately 7:30 p.m. The Indians defeated Jac-Cen-Del in the second game, 88-66. Milan defeated Batesville by 10 on Dec. 19. Prior to the championship, this year’s Ripley County Basketball Hall of Fame inductees will be recognized.

“All I asked of these guys was to get us in position to win the championship, because that’s a special game on a special night,” said Garrett.

AT WHITELAND (Jan. 4)

Batesville boys basketball’s losing stretch went over a month (prior to Wednesday) since a season-opening win Nov. 30. The Bulldogs lost at Whiteland Jan. 4 by a 62-58 final.

Batesville shot 38% to Whiteland’s 49 and made 83% from the foul line. The rebounding battle went to the Warriors, 34-23.

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