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Gophers beat Taylor to repeat as HHC champs

By AARON KENNEDY - akennedy@ftimes.com

The Clinton Prairie Gophers defeated the Taylor Titans, 47-35, to clinch their second straight Hoosier Heartland Conference Championship on Friday night at Jefferson.

“We hadn’t talked about it until the last couple days,” Clinton Prairie head coach Jeff Henley said. “The kids have played so hard and worked so hard, and it hasn’t been easy. We had to beat some nice teams on the road in the conference.

“We didn’t play our best tonight, but we played well enough to win, and I am happy for them,” he added. “I think we have won it five times in the history of the school, and we have done it twice in two years. I just think it says a lot about the kids and their effort.”

Clinton Prairie jumped out to an 8-3 start in the game but trailed 11-10 by the end of the opening period. The Gophers gained their advantage by clamping down defensively and allowing just 11 points through the next 16 minutes.

“They packed their zone in to really take it away from Mitch (Coapstick), and they did a great job on Mitch,” Henley said. “But, it did open things, and the kids made some great shots. Mason McGraw came in and hit a couple 3s that loosened things up. And, even though Mitch was not getting shots, he got some touches, and Collin (Stroup) was able to work on the inside and hit a couple 3s. We don’t like to shoot a ton of 3s, but tonight we were 7-of-17, so we are pretty pleased with that.

“They definitely wanted to take Mitch out of the game,” he continued. “They did scoring-wise, but he does so many other things. He guarded, in my opinion, their best player. He does so many other things well, but that is what he is going to see because he is so good on the inside.”

Stroup was a consistent source of offense for the Gophers, finishing with a game-high 26 points while Sam Schoonveld added seven. Bailey Good and McGraw came off the bench to score six points apiece.

Taylor sophomore Tyler Hall led the Titans with 11 points while sophomore Toric Spires came off the bench to add eight points.

With the win, the Gophers 15-2 overall and 6-0 in the HHC with Tri-Central left to play still before the end of the regular season.

Clinton Prairie’s junior varsity also improved to 15-2 after defeating Taylor, 46-39, in the early game.

The Gophers followed up their conference-clinching home win with a trip to Covington on Saturday to take on the Class 1A No. 1 Trojans. Covington came into the game with a 17-1 record and their lone loss coming by just one point at Class 3A West Lafayette.

“We go from winning a conference championship to playing the No. 1 team in the state,” Henley said. “That is going to be interesting because they are really good. I think the crowd is going to be huge there. I think the crowd will take on a sectional atmosphere. I don’t know what is going to happen, but I am looking forward to it. They are a really good team that scores a lot of points. We are struggling to score a lot of points, but I am looking forward to the challenge. We will see what happens.”

At Jefferson

GOPHERS 47, TITANS 35

Clinton Prairie

Coapstick 0 2-4 2, Stroup 8 6-6 26, Schoonveld 3 0-1 7, Peters 0 0-2 0, L. Martin 0 0-2 0, McGraw 2 0-0 6, Good 0 6-6 6. Totals – 13 14-20 47.

Taylor

Harris 3 0-0 6, Hall 4 1-2 11, Owens 2 0-0 6, Kelley-Smalley 1 0-0 3, Halliburton 0 1-2 1, Spires 2 3-3 8. Totals – 12 5-7 35.

Taylor 11 7 4 13 - 35

Clinton Prairie 10 11 13 13 - 47

3-point goals – Clinton Prairie 7 (Stroup 4, McGraw 2, Schoonveld), Taylor 6 (Owen 2, Hall 2, Kelley-Smalley, Spires). Total fouls – Clinton Prairie 6, Taylor 14.