SHARPSVILLE — They had met before, and somehow Tri-Central’s Trojans had pulled off a 60-57 overtime success against these same Clinton Prairie Gophers in the mid-season Clinton Central Holiday Tourney.
But this time coach Kyle Zahn’s Trojans decided the best way to succeed was just to say no.
So here Friday night the Trojans stepped up in their final Hoosier Heartland Conference contest, and loud and clearly said no to the Gophers to the tune of a mere 13 field goals in 41 hurried attempts including a mere six buckets in their final 22 attempts. The Trojans had four fewer shots (37) but five more baskets (18) for a hefty 48.6-percent mark and had a huge advantage at the free throw stripe, 15 of 22 compared to 7 of 8 for the Gophers — all of which added up to a 54-42 TC victory
The win upped the Trojan record to 8-9 overall and a 4-1 conference mark, good for runner-up honors to Rossville’s HCC-champion Hornets, which finished a perfect 5-0. The Gophers slipped to 5-10 and 2-3.
A pleased Zahn said afterward: “I was real happy with our defense which took their outside game entirely away. I think they had only four field goals inside the arc all night. [Cody] Howell and [Garrett] Dick did an especially good job with their constant pressure, and [Bryce] Dowell and [Colten] Leininger came off the bench in the first half to give us good offensive spark.
“Another big thing was that our bench outscored theirs, 15-0, and [Dillon] Smith came up big in the fourth quarter with 12 of his game-high 16 points which kept the game out of Prairie’s reach. It was a great effort, but I don’t think we have peaked yet. We’re just on the way up. And if we can stay focused and play like we did [Friday] night we’ll be tough to beat in the sectional,” he finished.