February 20, 2019The last time the Floyd Central Highlanders lost a home game was on Dec. 22, 2016, when they fell to Indianapolis Roncalli in a pre-Christmas tournament. Friday night, the Highlanders kept that win streak going for the 29th time when they shellacked the Tigers of Louisville's St. Xavier on senior night.
"Here's what I told them before the game, 'We've got a lot of work to do,' " Floyd Central coach Todd Sturgeon said. "Typically senior night, during the fourth quarter of the JV game, I meet with those guys and give some passioned, heartfelt talk to them. I get emotional and all that. I told them I don't have anything planned tonight because I don't feel like we're close to the end. I'm not planning for the end. I'm thinking we've got weeks left. That's my plan, but despite that, one thing comes to mind for all those guys, and that is they don't quit."
Floyd Central got off to a 6-2 start with senior Cobie Barnes scoring all of the Highlander points. That didn't last long, however, as the Tigers scored the next six, putting St. X up by four. The Tigers then committed three straight turnovers, and the Highlanders converted for points on each. Barnes added a deuce at the end of the quarter, and Floyd Central held a 14-10 lead after the first eight minutes.
Floyd Central senior Cobie Barnes, right, scored a career-high 36 points against St. Xavier in the Highlanders' 66-49 win.
"They run really good stuff and have good players," Sturgeon said. "There's a reason why they're a top-25 team in Kentucky."
Floyd Central traded shots to begin the second period then Barnes drained a 3-ball to launch the Highlanders into an 16-0 run to lead 40-15. Sebian Dillard sandwiched five St. X points around two Nick Winchell free throws. Winchell followed with another freebie and teammate Levi Siewert scored inside to end the period, as the Highlanders finished a 31-10 run to lead 45-20 at the break.
"That's a good lesson for us moving forward," Sturgeon said. "We got a little sloppy there and passive in the first half. We had maybe our best half and our worst half combined in one game there a little bit, but that happens sometimes. You know the score and you think, 'Hey, let's get this guy a basket.' When you want to milk the clock a little bit, then you have the opportunity, and we would make a careless pass."
The Highlanders went from their best quarter of the game to their worst in the third. Floyd Central got off just five shots in the eight minutes and hit two. Meanwhile, the Tigers checked in six of eight and outscored the Highlanders 14-4 to close the gap to 49-34 going into the fourth quarter.
"We ran into a little fool's gold there the first half when everything was going in and seemed easy, and, in the second half, it got hard all of sudden," the Floyd Central coach said. "We missed a couple of layups and we were kind of holding the ball and not wanting to take a quick shot. You see that happen all the time. Those guys know a little something about that."
"To be honest, we just couldn't get into gear like we normally play," Barnes said of the first half. "We finally started getting stops and playing hard and just doing everything. It was just a great quarter for us."
That big second quarter paid off in the end. The Tigers put up 18 shots in the fourth and hit five, three of those coming from behind the arc. Floyd Central got off eight shots, connecting on five, a 3-pointer and the rest deuces. The Highlanders won the quarter, 17-15, with Logan Libs finishing off the game with a hammer for the 66-49 victory.
"All aspects of our defense, obviously, it doesn't do us any good if we're to defend and get them to miss the first shot and let them get a second one," Sturgeon said. "We've been trying to get a little bit better, cleaning up and getting our own misses. It didn't seem like it was a great offensive rebounding night tonight.
"They go to the boards hard, and it's really hard to keep a team off the boards once they're behind and they don't care if the referees call a foul. It's almost like kamikaze, they're just crashing in there. It's really hard to keep them off at that point."
Barnes had a career-high 36 points to lead the Highlanders. Floyd Central punched in 21 of 37 shots from the field (57 percent) and 20 of 23 free throws. The Highlanders committed 12 turnovers.
"We've ridden him like a rented mule all year long," Sturgeon said of Barnes. "He's been fabulous for a guy that's gone from being an outstanding high school player to being a dominant player. It's really been enjoyable to watch. I don't know how many times during the season as coaches we just sit and look at each other and say, 'We're glad he's on our team.' If he was on the other team, the score might be flipped. We get spoiled with him. We just have these games where we barely mention what he did during the course of the game. We get to it like the third or fourth thing and he's just gotten 30 points, eight or nine rebounds,"
"I just wanted to go out with this team," Barnes said. "We've been playing together since the fifth grade. I just wanted to go out and have a great game and win our last game here."
Samuel Boarman led the Tigers with 15 points, and Dillard finished with 13. Mekhi Smith added 12 for St. X, who hit 18 of 45 field goal attempts (40 percent) and 6 of 10 from the charity stripe. The Tigers finished with 14 turnovers.
Smith gave the Highlanders plenty of trouble in the first half, but Floyd Central did a better job of containing the St. X freshman in the second half.
"It wasn't a matter of personnel," Sturgeon said. "It was a matter of what they were doing there. Not to get into all the technical aspects, they were coming up with a ball screen and he was refusing the screen, and that's one of the cardinal sins with our switching. We want him to go to that ball screen, because we're just going to switch that screen. We told the guys we can't let him refuse the screen, and that's what we were doing. So, we didn't feel like so much it was a certain guy. They run really good stuff. They're hard to guard."
The Highlanders came back the next night to win at Bloomington North by an 11-point margin, 58-47, with Barnes matching his career high of 36 from the previous night. The Highlanders will finish their regular season tonight (Wednesday) at Columbus East before next week's game against Jennings County in the Class 4A Sectional 15 at Seymour.
"These guys have been waiting to get their chance, and most kids are not going to wait till they're seniors to play," Sturgeon said. "They did that and knowing, 'Well, there's only three of us, so, when those seniors graduate, we're all going to get to play.' They all knew, 'Heck, we've got five senior guards.' They all know a couple of us, we're not going to play that much. It's just to be part of the team.
"Thomas Hibbard moved back to be part of the team. Jacob Ray moved back to be part of the team. And then a guy like Cobie, you'd think, 'Yeah, he doesn't quit.' He got that scholarship and signed (with Indiana State University), and a lot of guys have very mediocre years after doing that. He's elevated his play and driven this team to another level. So, he's not quitting."
"I just know I have an ultimate goal," Barnes said. "I want to one day just take care of my family. If I can just keep up with this basketball thing, I can do a pretty good job of that."
"That's kind of the thing that stands out to me," Sturgeon said. "All these things that, as a coach, you preach about all the time, they really live up to that. So, it makes them fun to coach them."
St. Xavier 10 10 14 15 - 49
Floyd Central 14 31 4 17 - 66
St. Xavier - Dillard 13, M. Smith 12, S. Smith 5, Boarman 15, Ransbach 4
Floyd Central - Winchell 9, Heidbreder 5, Siewert 5, Eades 6, Barnes 36, Sturgeon 3, Libs 2
3-pointers - Dillard 2, M. Smith 3, Boarman 2, Heidbreder, Siewert, Eades 2, Barnes 2