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Conference races wind toward crowning champions

By CHUCK LANDIS and SCOTT HUNT

The finish line for conference championships in boys high school basketball is squarely in sight and two Grant County teams are firmly entrenched in their respective league title races.

While Marion has to take care of its own business in the North Central Conference race, the Class 3A No. 8 Giants are going to need some help to win the NCC.

That’s not the case for Mississinewa, the business the Indians need to tend to win the Central Indiana Conference championship is coming to Gas City today in the form of 2A No. 6 Frankton.

The Eagles are 5-0 in CIC play while Mississinewa and Alexandria both stand 4-1. Ole Miss handled the Tigers, 66-52 on Jan. 25 and Frankton wraps up CIC hosting Alex on Feb. 15.

The math is simple, a win by Frankton earns a share of the CIC crown. A win by Mississinewa tonight and at Eastbrook next week gets the Indians at least a share.

Following are previews of all four games involving Grant County teams on tonight’s schedule.

Frankton (16-3, 5-0 in CIC) at Mississinewa (10-7, 4-1), 7:30 p.m.

Just when it couldn’t seem to get any tougher for Ole Miss, well it’s doesn’t appear to get any easier.

The Indians are coming off back-to-back losses, at 3A No. 1 Delta (51-34) on Saturday and at home to Marion (91-66) on Tuesday, while Frankton comes rolling on to Fredenberger Court with a 10-game winning streak in tow. Only three of those wins have been by less than 10 points.

Frankton’s strength comes not just from talent, but also experience, as the Eagles have seven seniors on the roster, with its two primary leaders, Kayden Key and Rylan Detling both starters on the 2016 Class 2A championship team. Key tops Frankton at 18.5 points per game to go with nearly five rebounds two assists and two steals. The 6-7 Detling contributes 14.1 ppg as well as six rebounds and two assists. Senior JJ Hatzell chips in with 10.5 ppg and senior Brayton Cain adds 8.3 ppg.

Frankton is second in the CIC in both offensive (67.6) and defensive (50.5) scoring averages, Ole Miss scores almost 62 points a game and allows 56. 

Marion (11-5, 5-2 NCC) at McCutcheon (6-11, 1-6), 7:30 p.m.

The Giants take their high-scoring act on the road for a crucial North Central Conference encounter with the Mavericks. In the four games since JK Thomas and Dre Aguilar returned to the lineup full time, the Giants have averaged 88.3 points and are coming off a 91-66 victory Tuesday over county rival Mississinewa.

After a 40-point performance against Ole Miss, Marion sophomore Jalen Blackmon has raised his scoring average to 31.9 points to rank third in Indiana. Blackmon has scored 30 or more points in six straight games and includes a career-best 42-point effort at Lafayette Jeff.

Logansport tops the NCC standings at 5-1, but the Giants, Lafayette Jeff and Muncie Central are right behind at 5-2. The Giants have one other league game remaining Feb. 15 at Harrison (West Lafayette).

McCutcheon is tied with Kokomo at the bottom of the NCC standings, but the Mavericks are 5-0 against Marion since joining the league in the 2014-15 season. The Mavericks are coming off 20-point-plus losses at Anderson and against Lafayette Jeff.

Thomas scored 18 against Ole Miss and is averaging 9.2 points in five games since returning from a fractured ankle.

Marion also hosts Greenwood at 4 p.m. Saturday in the Bill Green Arena.

Oak Hill (6-10, 2-3 CIC) at Blackford (12-4, 3-3), 7:30 p.m.

The Eagles will be the fourth Grant County team to attempt slow down Bruins’ standout Grant Brown, the state’s leading scorer at 35.8 points a game. Brown has scored 39 points against Ole Miss, 36 against Madison-Grant and a season-low 20 against Eastbrook this season.

Brown could score his 1,000th point this evening against the Eagles. The sophomore guard needs 11 points to reach the milestone and would achieve it in only his 32nd varsity game, a faster pace than Indiana’s all-time scoring leader Damon Bailey.

The Bruins are the state’s 10th highest-scoring team at 71.8 points and Brown gets support from 6-3 junior Brandon Stroble who averages 15.0 points.

Oak Hill has lost three of its last four games, the most recent a 42-34 setback Saturday against Lewis Cass.

The Eagles also host Eastern at 5 p.m. Saturday in a makeup game.

Eastbrook (2-14) at Wes-Del (10-6), 7:30 p.m.

The Panthers hope to end a losing streak that has reached seven games when they travel to Wes-Del. The most recent loss came against Bluffton 62-39 on Wednesday.

Eastbrook has just one win in 2019 and it came Jan. 5 against Cowan, 58-43. Scoring has been a problem all season (46.6), but in the losing streak the Panthers have averaged 43.9 points.

Dylan Bragg has been the Panthers leading scorer at 15.0 points, followed by Garrett Holder at 10.3 and Alex Baker at 7.9.

Wes-Del has lost its two previous games against Cowan (68-64) and Anderson Prep Academy (66-60).

Madison-Grant (9-9, 3-3 CIC) at Alexandria (11-5, 4-1), Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

The Argylls will attempt to rebound from Thursday’s 27-point loss at Southwood when they travel to the Tigers for a 7:30 p.m. Saturday conference game. Alexandria played for the first time in almost two weeks Thursday at Muncie Burris and still are in contention for the conference championship.