By JIM McCARTER
Tri-Central and Carroll will meet tonight in the championship game of the 53rd annual Clinton Central Holiday Tournament.
Carroll broke open a close game in the second half for a 61-37 victory over Clinton Prairie in Friday’s opening semifinal and Tri-Central demolished the host Bulldogs 79-32 in the second game.
Someone will score their first victory of the season when the 0-8 Bulldogs face 0-7 Clinton Prairie in the consolation game at 6:30 p.m. today. The championship game will follow that game.
In the second semifinal, the Trojans led 20-9 at the first stop, then stretched that lead each quarter. Tri-Central improved to 3-4 on the season and seemed to improve as the game went along.
“Coaches always look for what their teams do wrong, but, for the most part, we played pretty well,” Tri-Central coach Kyle Zahn said. “[Thursday] was the only practice we’ve had since the holiday break and you could see us shake off the rust as we got into the second half. We didn’t always rebound as well as we’d like and we made too many turnovers early in the game, but any time you hold an opponent to just 32 points you’re doing something right.”
Clinton Central had only 14 turnovers for the game, but shot poorly all night, hitting only 14 of 65 field-goal attempts (26 percent), while the Trojans found the nets on 24 of 53 for a respectable 45-percent accuracy. The Bulldogs barely found the basket at all in the second half, scoring just nine points after halftime on ice-cold 4-of-30 shooting (13 percent).
“We’re getting better at taking care of the ball,” Clinton Central coach Scott Leighty said. “But we gave up too many easy baskets in the transition game. Tri-Central released a guy every play and we just didn’t get back, giving easy fast-break lay-ups. In the second half we kind of fell apart and got out of our offense. We did a lot of 1-on-1 play and you don’t score much like that.
“Tri-Central is a strong, quick team that plays hard. I think they wore us down.”
Kolby Thomas and Seth Blunck shared game-high scoring honors with 16 apiece for Tri-Central. That duo also dominated the boards. Thomas led both teams with 12 rebounds and Blunck pulled down eight. The Trojans outrebounded the Bulldogs 46-27.
Also for TC, Dillon Smith added nine points and six rebounds, Dalton Davis had nine points and Garrett Dick scored eight to go with five boards.
Jake Burton led the Bulldogs with seven points and six rebounds, while Cole Simmons and Reece Mennen each scored six.
In the opener, Eric Miller led 4-3 Carroll with 18 points. Brady Wiles and Jarin Bush also scored in double figures with 12 and 10, respectively.
Kale Morris led Clinton Prairie with 16 points.