FISHERS – In four of the previous five seasons both Zionsville and Hamilton Southeastern have played games that have come down to one possession or were decided in overtime.
Friday night was more of the same in that regard.
Unfortunately for the Eagles, they came up on the short end of the ledger against the Royals. Despite 27 points from Anthony Scales and a furious comeback the Eagles (11-6, 1-3) fell to Hamilton Southeastern 51-48.
“One of the things we tried to emphasize tonight was that every possession matters,” said Zionsville coach Shaun Busick. “We had some poor possessions with throwing the ball away, turning the ball over, miss free throw block outs… just elementary things that we can correct. The good news is that when we lose a game like this the errors become more glaring and we can correct them.”
The Eagles led only once at 2-0, but had an excellent chance to get the win in the closing seconds.
Trailing 48-46 after forcing a missed shot the Eagles got into a scramble situation after bringing the ball up the floor. Ben Weidner found himself wide open on the wing with a great look at a 3-pointer with 25 seconds left, but just missed the shot.
“It was a great shot and we had s similar one earlier with Logan (Imes) open in the corner,” said Busick of the look Weidner got. “Both of them shoot the ball shoot pretty well from three so we have told them to take them when they have them.
Three-pointers were the difference early on for Hamilton Southeastern as the Royals (8-5, 2-2) hit their first four attempts from long range to take a 14-7 lead after a quarter. They then led 21-18 at the half and opened up the lead as large as 11 a few times in the third quarter.
Scales, however, would not let the Eagles go quietly. With his team trailing 36-26 he grabbed a critical offensive rebound off of a missed free throw and converted an old-fashioned three-point play with 3.3 seconds left in the third to cut the lead to 36-29.
That sequence started a run where Scales scored 12 straight points for the Eagles. Weidner then had his own old-fashioned three-point play with 3:29 left in the game to trim the lead to 43-41 before Scales made a steal and coast-to-coast dunk to tie it at 43-43 with 3:11 left, capping a 12-3 Zionsville run.
“Unfortunately, Anthony was the only one having a great night for us,” said Busick. “A few guys were having an okay night, but Anthony did a great job tonight. I was really proud of our fight tonight.”
After tying the game at 43-43 the Royals scored five straight points for some breathing room before Jackson Hughes cut their lead to 48-46 with a 3 with 50 seconds to go. The Eagles then got the stop they needed defensively, but could not convert on Weidner’s late three.
The Royals were able to play stout defense most of the evening thanks to 7-foot-1-inch center Mabor Majak. The Cleveland State signee only finished with four points, but had 11 rebounds, several blocked shots, and his presence in the middle negated several other opportunities at the rim.
Zionsville faces local rival Pike on Tuesday night at Pike.
Eagles put it all together in topping 7th-ranked Warriors
ZIONSVILLE – The Zionsville boys basketball team kicked off its toughest two-week stretch of the season with a big win on Tuesday night.
The Eagles controlled the second half against seventh-ranked Warren Central, and outscored the Warriors 41-24 in the second half to win 59-46.
“This is a big win for us, and the surprising thing to me is that we really only had one day of preparation,” Zionsville head coach Shaun Busick said. “We had games Friday and Saturday last week, so yesterday we had to walk through and run through stuff – it wasn’t your typical day before a game. We really had to practice hard to simulate what they do.”
Zionsville trailed 22-18 at the half, but used a 7-0 run to take a 27-24 lead, getting two dunks from Gunnar Vannatta around a 3-pointer from Jackson Hughes.
Warren Central came back to tie the game at 29, but the Eagles got back-to-back baskets from Dylan Ritter and Kyle Reasoner and took a three-point lead into the half.
The Eagles were able to get the lead with their two leading scorers – Anthony Scales and Ben Weidner – on the bench, showing how much their depth has improved.
“Gunnar played great, having 10 and 9, but Kyle Reasoner really was fantastic,” Busick said. “His spark was a big difference in the ball game. You have to trust your teammates and as the season has progressed, Kyle, Logan (Imes) and Isaiah Davis have started to earn my trust more and are doing a great job off the bench. I like where we are at as a team, and I like the start of this most difficult stretch we are going through.”
In the fourth quarter, the Eagles put the game away with an impressive display from the free-throw line.
Zionsville attempted just four field goals in the quarter, making two, but got to the line 23 times, making 22, including their first 21 of the quarter.
The Eagles used a 13-3 run to take a 46-35 lead on two Scales free throws, and Warren got no closer than seven from there.
“We made all but one in the fourth quarter and were 26 of 30 in the game,” Busick said of the free-throw shooting. “You talk about senior leaders, Ben goes 11-of-11, Anthony goes 8-of-8 and Gunnar goes 2-of-2. It was just guys stepping up who have played a lot of varsity for us and hit their free throws.”
Weidner led the team with 17 points, with Hughes scoring 13 and Vannatta 10.
Scales had eight and Reasoner six.
Zionsville is now 11-5 on the year, and have gone 9-2 in their last 11 games.
“We have gotten progressively better as the season goes on,” Busick said. “The tough thing now is how do we maintain that? I like how we handled pressure and how we executed. Gunnar is playing a lot tougher for us, going up strong and going up high to get rebounds. He anchoring the middle of that zone for us. It’s still a process, we aren’t there yet, but the deficiencies are getting less and less.”
The Eagles travel on Friday night to HSE to face a Royals team that is also finding their stride.
Hamilton Southeastern has been a house of horrors for the Eagles, with Zionsville not having won there since January of 1994.
“They are playing the best basketball in the conference right now,” Busick said. “For us to win on the road, it would be nothing short of a perfect performance. We have to take great care of the ball, hit our shots and keep them out of the paint. They are really well coached, they are a great basketball team and they are playing really, really well right now.”