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Highlanders skin Wildcats, 80-50

February 23, 2011
The Floyd Central Highlanders put five players in double figures Friday night to skin the visiting Wildcats of Jasper. Floyd Central dominated from beginning to end to win, 80-50.

"We had a pretty good week shooting the ball, and the kids executed," Floyd Central coach Randy Gianfagna said. "The kids did what we said. … Tonight, the guys took open shots and they went in, and that makes you look a lot better."

Floyd Central’s Gavin O’Neal came off the bench for 16 points to lead the Highlanders in their 80-50 win over visiting Jasper. Photo by Wade Bell
The Highlanders lit up the nets early, scoring the first 11 points of the game. Connor Schellenberg had nine points in the first eight minutes, and Wade Neihoff buried a pair of three's as the hot-handed Highlanders took a 25-8 lead. Floyd Central hit 8 of 13 shots in the quarter, while Jasper connected on just 3 of 8.

Floyd Central junior Jordan Thompson fell victim to a broken leg during the Columbus East game on Feb. 9, forcing Gianfagna to start a somewhat smaller, and quicker, lineup.

"It did move a lot faster tonight," he said. "We were happy with that. I thought our defense was pretty dog-gone good to start. The first quarter was pretty good. We didn't want (Adam Sander) to get it off. He's pretty good. (Sander) is pretty good, and that's why late in the game we had to go to a zone just to keep in touch. I don't think they got an offensive rebound, and that's what we were trying to do."

Jasper made up some ground in the second period, outscoring the Highlanders 18-13 as fouls became a concern for Floyd Central. Sander showed he was one to watch as he scored half of those points. Jasper made a 14-4 run in the last half of the period to close the gap to 12, 38-26, by halftime.

The big concern for the Highlanders at halftime was keeping the Wildcats from cutting their deficit to single digits early in the third period.

"We talked about what are they going to do," Gianfagna said. "Are they going to press you or half-court trap you? They half-court trapped us the first possession. We get in the high post and try to jam it down there. I just pulled them out, and we got a stop though and get one in transition."

"It was a physical game," he said. "We got in some foul trouble. We had Barrett and (Schellenberg) in foul trouble the second quarter. I don't think Connor played any at all the second quarter. But the ball moved, and we took the shots that were open and all that kind of stuff."

Jasper tried to keep within striking distance in the third, matching Floyd Central nearly point for point until Nick Veroff and Niehoff fired in back-to-back three's. Gavin O'Neal later swished a third three to finish a 9-0 Highlander run. Maxell Bawel got a deuce-and-one for the Wildcats, but O'Neal finished the quarter with a deuce as the Highlanders took a 58-40 lead.

The final quarter went to Floyd Central, as well, 22-10, as the Highlanders cruised to the 30-point win.

"Once it got to 16, 18, it was nice to see," Gianfagna said. "We had been letting people back in the game, and tonight we actually pushed it out. It just kept going."

O'Neal came off the bench to lead the Highlanders with 16 points. Veroff had a good night with 15 points, and Niehoff finished with 14. Schellenberg had 12 points, and Barrett Crone added 10. The Highlanders connected on 26 of 43 field-goal attempts (60 percent) and 20 of 30 free throws, while turning over the ball 12 times.

Floyd Central had both the back-door and free-throw line working in the second half.

"We told them at halftime, it's a blowout if we make our free throws," Gianfagna said. "Once they had to pressure you, then they get out of whack, because normally what they are is pressure on the ball and guarding the three-point line. Then, they were down 20, so they had to come out and pressure us."

Sander led Jasper (9-10) with 20 points, and Casey Nelson followed with 16. The Wildcats canned 18 of 49 shots (37 percent) and 11 of 12 free throws. Jasper had 10 turnovers.

"If you don't double up against Jasper, they're pretty dog-gone good," the Floyd Central coach said. "If you look, they're 1-5 in overtime games, and (last) Tuesday night they took Princeton to 94-86 (in overtime), so they're a good ball club. We just made shots and knocked them down. They're able to play from ahead, but we did a lot of nice things tonight."

"I think we need the two more games to get everybody into their roles," Gianfagna said. "With Jordan out, this is only our second game without him. Different guys are playing. We went a little smaller. It's fine."

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The Highlanders lost at Hoosier Hill Conference-foe Jennings County, 63-41, Friday night. Floyd Central (12-9, 1-6) will close out the regular season at home Friday night against Charlestown. The varsity game will begin at 7:30.

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