By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin
FAIRMOUNT, Ind. —
It seldom was pretty, but Elwood will take Friday’s Central Indiana Conference victory just the same.
Junior Jared Bourff made all six of his free-throw attempts down the stretch to finish with a game-high 15 points, and the Panthers outlasted Madison-Grant 47-41.
“It was a good, hard-fought CIC battle,” Elwood coach Corey Jackson said.
Even if it didn’t start that way.
The Panthers (3-2, 1-0 CIC) scored the game’s first nine points and ended the first half with back-to-back 3-pointers for a 26-17 lead at intermission.
But Elwood’s lead never grew larger than 10 points, and a game that appeared as though it could be a blowout early remained tight throughout the second half.
“The way the game started, I thought it was gonna be a really solid night for us,” Jackson said. “I think we did play well defensively. Offensively, we didn’t play as well.”
The Argylls’ early troubles could have been attributable in part to the absence of Tyler McClellan. The senior point guard was averaging 14.5 points and 5.5 assists before breaking a bone in his shooting hand last week.
Without him leading the charge, Madison-Grant (2-3, 0-1) managed just five points in the first quarter and never really got into an offensive rhythm.
Senior swingman Jeremy Johnson seemed to be most affected by McClellan’s loss. He entered with a 19.5-point scoring average but shot just 1-of-7 from the floor and scored his only field goal with 19.8 seconds to play.
Jackson credited junior Bryce Graves and sophomore Jordan Arehart for the defensive effort that held Johnson to just two points.
“That was a key,” Jackson said. “I talked to Bryce and Jordan about pressuring him, not letting him get anything easy.”
Even with its two leading scorers as non-factors, Madison-Grant made things interesting.
The Argylls pulled within 34-31 early in the fourth quarter but failed to take advantage of four consecutive Elwood turnovers.
Madison-Grant missed five straight shots, and then watched as Panthers junior Anthony Bennett took over the game.
The 6-foot-4 center came off the bench to score 10 points, none bigger than the back-to-back midrange jumpers he sank to spark a 6-0 run and push Elwood’s lead back to nine with about four minutes to play.
“We found every way possible to lose a basketball game,” Argylls coach John Irwin said. “We had plenty of opportunities.”
Bourff iced the game away down the stretch at the charity stripe, and he and Bennett were joined in double figures by Collin Hoskins. The 6-foot senior scored all 10 of his points on perfect 4-for-4 shooting in the first half.
Senior Austin Engle and sophomore Aaron Patton led Madison-Grant with 10 points each.
Four teams shared the CIC title last season with two losses, and Jackson expects the league to be similarly competitive this time around.
“Every night is gonna be like this,” he said. “It’s gonna be a struggle, a battle. But it makes for good basketball.”