Indians overcome 12-point first half deficit to defeat Southwood, earn sixth win of season

Indians overcome 12-point first half deficit to defeat Southwood, earn sixth win of season

By Sean Douglas 

In a few of their games this season, the Mississinewa Indians have been victimized by slow starts in a few games this season

Sluggish beginnings against Yorktown and Huntington North in mid-December led to a pair of final-possession defeats in a five-day span. Right before Christmas, the Indians fell behind by eight early in their first matchup against Madison-Grant and were unable to recover. 

However, through those defeats, have begun to teach the Indians have started to learn the value of how to (weather those storms bit clich-ish) continue to playing for one another through adversity, and  then most importantly, turning the tide back in their favor. 

Behind a career-best performance from Donovan Betts and a stellar second-half defensive effort, the Indians overcame an early offensive blitz from the Southwood Knights, earning a 76-65 victory, their sixth of the season. 

“This has been a place where our team has struggled a couple of times this year,” Mississinewa Head Coach James Reed said. “When we get punched in the mouth…we want to make a play for our teammates instead of using our teammates to make a play. In the first half, we struggled, but in the second half, I thought we stayed really consistent.

“We are going to learn from this. Not every painting has to be a Picasso. We got the win.”

The Knights came out red-hot offensively, shooting nine-of-16 in the opening quarter and making their first six shots from beyond the arc, which allowed them to build a 26-16 lead. While their shots were falling, the Knights were also physical at the point of attack, gaining the upper hand in the post as well as on the outside. 

“Southwood comes to play, and they’ve got some guys that can score,” Reed said. “If you aren’t ready to play team defense, they are going to make the night difficult for you. They got us out of rhythm, and they made us uncomfortable, which is what good teams do. We were uncomfortable for the majority of the night.” 

The Knights increased their advantage to a game-high 12 points early in the second quarter, and with his team in need of a spark, Betts delivered. The sophomore guard, who has seen his playing time increase as the season has progressed, helped to settle the Indians down while infusing a sense of urgency and energy that were not present in the first quarter. 

With the Indians trailing 31-19, Betts scored eight straight points for the Indians, including two triples on back-to-back possessions to cut the Knights’ lead to single digits. While Mississinewa would not take the lead until the third quarter, Betts’ play gave the Indians the confidence they needed to make a comeback. 

“This isn’t the first game that he has hit huge shots for us,” Reed said. “He started off the season with really no minutes, and he has been earning minutes every game. Donovan is a special player, and he is only a sophomore. He is only going to get better. He’s got a 40-inch vertical. He can guard post guys. I’m so excited to see him develop. I think every night he plays, we get a little bit deeper.” 

Trailing by four, 41-37, to start the second half, the Indians put together a scoring flurry of their own, outscoring the Knights 9-2 in the early stages to turn their four-point deficit into a three-point lead. Landen Swanner was the catalyst, scoring six of the Indians’ nine points in the scoring surge. 

The lead flip-flopped in the final 3:25, but Tai McClung scored the final three points of the third quarter to give the Indians a 51-49 advantage – one they would not relinquish again. 

A second straight 9-2 run to start the fourth quarter, together with strong finishes from McClung and Swanner, allowed the Indians to put the game away. McClung scored eight points in the final frame, using his size to his advantage in the post, while Swanner shot a perfect six-for-six from the line. 

After giving up 41 first half points and allowing the Knights to shot 15-of-29 from the field (58 percent) and a scorching seven-of-11 from the three-point line (63 percent), the Indians clamped down in the final two quarter, giving up just 24 points and allowing the Knights to connect on just nine of their 25 field goal attempts (36 percent) and one of their five looks from distances (20 percent). 

“They were doing a lot of one-on-one stuff, and we were caught watching on the help side. We finally bought into it in the second half, and we kept them out of the middle,” Reed said. “Then, we were able to pressure them a little bit. I thought that worked well against them, making them uncomfortable. Our defense is our constant.” 

McClung recorded a double-double with 22 points and 11 rebounds, while Swanner finished with 18 points and nine rebounds. Betts scored a career-high 17 points off the bench, while Hayden Ulerick and Lucas Asbury each added eight. 

Dawson Filip played a great game for Southwood, scoring 23 points, while Carson Rich scored 16, 11 of which came in the first half.

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