South Adams knocks out AC in Sectional

Eric Mann
Staff Writer

NORTH MANCHESTER — More than three weeks after Adams Central bested South Adams in the Stardome at Berne, 57-46, the Starfires avenged that loss at the best possible time — the do-or-die playoffs — by outperforming the Jets in the Class 2A sectional at Manchester High School on Wednesday, 55-39.
The victory sent the 13-10 SA squad against a mighty crew from Blackhawk Christian of Fort Wayne in today’s semi-final. BC knocked off Whitko in Wednesday’s second game.
AC was ahead the whole first half, but just held a 17-12 halftime advantage.
That disappeared in the final two quarters as SA did just what head coach Josh Hendrixson told the players to do at the break: “push the ball” and don’t play down to AC’s style. He said after the win that he didn’t want to lose a 35-30 game.
He didn’t because the Starfires put up 43 second-half points, including 25 in the climactic fourth period, while the Jets managed just 22 in the last two quarters.
One of the most telling statistics was the free throw disparity: South Adams (17 of 24) made more shots than AC attempted (six for 15). Central went a mere two of eight (25%) in the fourth, including misses on the front ends of a pair of one-and-one opportunities and SA banged in nine of 12 (75%).
Hendrixson said it was “exciting to get a sectional win” and a chance to compete against a team of the high caliber of Blackhawk, last year’s Class A champs, highly-rated all year, and led by Purdue-bound 6-8 junior Caleb Furst.
He said the BC Braves have “really good athletes” and stated that he and his assistants would look at film on Thursday to create a game plan for Friday’s faceoff.
The South Adams comeback was also helped by “the law,” meaning the law of averages, since some inside shots the team missed in a messy first half began falling in the second and the Starfires canned three threes, to boot. SA missed at least 10 point-blank shots in the first half and Hendrixson noted that some of those shots were missed in the second, too, but, by “finishing through contact,” the points started adding up.
James Arnold topped all scorers with 21 on six for nine twos and nine for 11 FTs, plus three rebounds and two steals. In the fourth stanza, he was five for six at the line.
Aidan Wanner added 13: three for three in treys and four for four at the stripe; Trey Schoch had 10 and two steals; and Nick Miller tallied seven and grabbed a game-high six rebounds.
AC coach Aaron McClure, whose team ended the season at 9-15, said he was “really proud of our guys” for their performance, with only two seniors on the squad: Lucas Van De Weg, who scored 12, and Ben Voirol, who had nine. Both guys, said the coach, were on the floor almost all of every game, unless in foul trouble.
McClure, noting that the Jets finished 3-3 in the Allen County Athletic Conference standings, said his young players were among the most improved he’s had from start to finish in his 19 years as AC’s head coach.
He agreed that poor foul shooting was a key factor, since it created a scoring gap at the worst possible time.
Of Van De Weg, he pointed out that he’s the valedictorian at present; about Voirol, he said he’s a neighbor in Monroe and has grown as a player, even while playing neighborhood pickup ball with McClure’s son.
Among the key plays by the Starfires were these:
—In the third period, Wanner pulled off a steal and sped full-court for a layup, but was fouled and missed the shot; however, he bagged both free throws to give SA its first lead at 23-22.
—In the fourth quarter, Schoch went literally flying horizontal as he nailed a layup and landed hard on the floor, but quickly got up. His score made it 47-37.
For AC, a dramatic moment came in the second period when Ethan Brown stole the ball and immediately passed to Braysen Yergler, who went three-quarter-court for a layup to give the Jets a 14-5 lead.
A three by Ethan Poling 34 seconds later put Central up 17-7, its biggest lead of the night.
Only four Jets scored, with Poling getting 10 and Yergler eight. Poling added three rebounds, while Yergler had a game-leading six assists and three thefts. Chase Murray also stole thrice.