Facing sectional foe and Class A No. 3 Orleans in the second game of the season was a good early test for the Crothersville boys basketball team.
After scoring a combined 40 points in the matchup the past two seasons, the Tigers managed more points in Saturday’s game, but it wasn’t enough to topple the powerhouse Bulldogs. Crothersville dropped to 0-2 with an 80-59 loss.
Despite 11 first-half turnovers, the Tigers kept it to 34-29 at halftime.
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But Orleans scored four quick points to open the second half and later closed the third quarter on a 5-0 run to lead 56-38 going into the fourth quarter.
Crothersville pressed and trapped throughout the final eight minutes to try to stop Orleans, but the Bulldogs made it to the free-throw line and were a sharp 18 of 22.
“I thought we let down defensively,” Tigers coach Greg Kilgore said of spurts in the second half. “I thought we started trying to just trade buckets with them, and you can’t do that when you’re down 14. They do a great job of working the ball and getting it to (Chase) Hall because he’s their scorer.”
Eli Mollet started strong for the Tigers, scoring eight of the team’s 13 points in the first quarter behind a pair of 3-pointers. Hall also made a pair from long range, and two of his teammates each had one to help the Bulldogs to a 17-13 lead through one quarter.
Crothersville then had a dismal start to the second quarter with six turnovers, while Orleans opened on a 9-0 run.
Tyler Luedeman helped get the Tigers back on track with 10 points in the second quarter, and the Tigers made it a five-point game at the break.
Lane Wienhorst provided a lift off of the bench in the third quarter. After making a basket in the first half, the Tigers freshman knocked down a pair of 3-pointers from the right wing and added a 2-pointer in the third quarter.
But the Tigers only scored one other point in the third and were outscored 22-9 to put themselves in a hole.
Kilgore was impressed with Wienhorst, who finished the game with 10 points after scoring a team-high 13 in the junior varsity contest.
“Wienhorst came off the bench and did a phenomenal job as a freshman,” Kilgore said. “I told coach (Bobby) Riley that may be the end of his JV time. I only get him for two quarters, and he scores 10 at Orleans. This is like a pressure cooker over here, so for a freshman to come in and get 10 against that kind of pressure defense (is good).”
Mollet led the Tigers with 21 points, including four 3-pointers, and five rebounds. Luedeman was next with 10 points, but the other three starters combined for four points.
“Luedeman and Mollet both stepped up and played great games,” Kilgore said. “At times, I thought Luedeman was the best player on the floor for either team. He kind of got out of gas there at the end. We were down 16, so I just took him out. But I thought he played really well, and I thought Eli competed well the time he was on the floor. I’ve got to get a couple more starters to step up and help those two.”
To claim their first victory, Kilgore said the Tigers need to get the ball to their scorers.
“We’re not as humbling of ourselves to get the ball to our scorers,” he said. “We think, ‘It’s my turn to shoot sometimes. He’s already made his two. Now, it’s my turn, and I’m open, so I’m going to shoot.’ Basketball doesn’t work that way.
“I’ve told the kids forever, and they laugh when I say it, but the basketball gods make you play the game the right way, and they bless you when they do and curse you when you don’t. That’s a hard lesson for kids to understand sometimes.”
Hall led all scorers with 24 points, while Duncan Gerkin scored 11 points for the Bulldogs (1-0), and Evan Allen added 10 off of the bench.
Despite the 0-2 start, Kilgore said his team is more competitive at this point in the season compared to the past few years.
“We’re learning, and we’re competing, and we’ve got some good, young kids coming up in the freshman and sophomore classes,” he said. “Of course, Orleans will be one of the favorites in our sectional. But I think by tournament time, we could give some teams some jitters because I think everybody is looking at the big four (teams), and I think either us or Medora could sneak up on anybody in the sectional.”
On Friday, the Tigers will host Medora.
“I told the kids in the locker room, ‘Come to practice Monday ready to play because Medora could come to Crothersville and make us 0-3,’” Kilgore said. “They’ve got a nice ballclub, as well.”