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 Basketball Teams Face Tests in Season's Second Half - Boys Visit Trojans Friday; Girls in 6-game Home Stand

January 7, 2009 -  When the Knightstown boys basketball team travels to New Castle Friday night to play the Trojans for the first time in 12 years, don’t expect a lot of offensive fireworks.

Coach Steve Bennett’s Trojans are 5-3 on the season after defeating Connersville 61-51 over the weekend. But those 61 points were a lot more than the Trojans are used to putting on the scoreboard this season. Their season high occurred during a 65-60 overtime victory over Muncie South at home. For the year New Castle averages just 46.2 points per game, giving up an average of 44, which is one of the best defensive averages in the entire state.

Knightstown is averaging 61 points per game, while allowing opponents to score at a 54.8 clip.

The two schools had been playing basketball against one another for as long as records have been kept, dating back to at least the 1920s. But when class basketball was introduced and became effective with the 1997-98 season, Knightstown dropped the Trojans from the schedule.

The last time the two schools have met was on March 1, 1997, when New Castle defeated the Panthers 68-46 in the sectional championship game. The Trojans beat the Panthers earlier that season 95-44, after winning two games the previous year 110-44 and 101-56, also in the sectional final.

Apparently, the Knightstown administration felt those lopsided games were punishment enough and New Castle was immediately dropped when class basketball was introduced.

Panther coach John Howell said one of the first things he wanted to do after taking over the program was put the Trojans back on the schedule.

“It’s a great opportunity for the kids to go over there and play in the Fieldhouse,” Howell said early in the season. “I’m really glad that we brought that game back to the schedule.”

Knightstown hasn’t beaten New Castle in boys varsity basketball since the 1986-87 season, when a team led by Ronnie Morgan and Mark Moss knocked off the Trojans during the regular season. That Panther team also won the New Castle Sectional – the last non-class basketball sectional won by Knightstown.

The game will be New Castle’s seventh home game out of nine so far this season. The Trojans play 12 games at home this year, and as it was always in the past, New Castle will never come to Knightstown to play the game. The Fieldhouse in New Castle can potentially seat 9,329 when extra bleachers are put out for state tournament action. Knightstown’s gymnasium seats 1,800.

The Trojans are 4-2 on their home court this year, losing their season opener to Class A 15th-ranked Blue River in a shocker, 40-35. They also lost at home to 4-4 Anderson Highland, 32-29. The other New Castle loss was to 4-4 Muncie Central 51-36.

But since that loss to the Bearcats, Steve Bennett’s Trojans have turned on the juice with two straight wins. New Castle handed Class 2A #14 Centerville its only loss this season, winning at home 56-53. The Trojans then knocked off Connersville 61-51 and appear to be putting it together on the offensive side. Despite averaging just 44 points per game this season, they are putting up more than 58 points over the last two games.

Bennett has been heading up the Trojan program for 12 years and has never coached against Knightstown. He is 200-63 at New Castle and 351-103 in 19 seasons overall. New Castle is a Class 4A school.

Knightstown plays one other Class 4A school (Greenfield-Central), and also schedules Class 3A Rushville and Mt. Vernon, three larger schools the Panthers have kept on the annual schedule for more than 30 years.

The Panthers have been inconsistent through the first half of the season, despite getting off to a 3-0 start with wins over Tri High, Wes-Del and Union County. The Panthers are 3-1 on the road this season, but just 2-2 at home. Knightstown is 3-3 against Class 2A teams, and 2-0 against Class A schools.

The game is the first in what will be a very difficult month for the Panthers. After this week’s feature game at New Castle, Knightstown will hit the road for two more brutal contests next Friday at 5-1 Centerville, and then Saturday at Conseco Fieldhouse against Rockville.

The team returns home for games on both January 23 and 24, but the opponents are rivals Shenandoah and Class 3A Mt. Vernon. Another road trip to Morristown closes out the month with four of the six games away from home.

After eight games this season, Knightstown is led by junior Zach Apollos, who is averaging 19.5 points and 7.6 rebounds. Sophomore Seth Apollos is scoring 10.8 points and pulling down a team-high eight rebounds. Senior Brice Biehl is averaging 9.2 points per game, and has appeared in just five games. Senior Kelton Lane averages eight points per contest.

Lady Panthers Ready To Turn Corner

Coach Dawn Basicker and her Knightstown Lady Panthers appear ready to turn the corner after some up-and-down play this season. The girls are 6-5 on the year, but have played one of the most difficult schedules a Knightstown team has seen in several years.

The load lightens up early in the year. The girls entertain North Decatur (6-4) Thursday night, and then play host to Tri High (4-6) Saturday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. Those two games kick off a five-game home stand for the Lady Panthers, who follow with Eastern Hancock (1-10) on Jan. 13, Union County (3-5) Jan. 15, Lincoln (5-7) Jan. 20, and Shenandoah (7-3) on Jan. 21. That is a total of six games in 23 days, but all six are at home.

The girls didn’t play well in a recent loss to Triton Central (9-2, six-game winning streak), but have shown their ability to compete with a big win over Class 4A Greenfield-Central and a double overtime loss to Lapel (10-0).

If the Lady Panthers continue to play up to their capabilities, they could complete the long home stand with a 12-5 record and some serious momentum heading into the sectional, which is also played on the Knightstown home court.

Through 11 games and just over half of the regular season schedule, sophomore point guard Megan Hiner is the leading scorer with a 14.2 average. Sabrina Hatfield is scoring 8.2 points per game, and Danielle Altman is scoring 7.4 points per contest.

Freshman Kaelee Kuhn averages 6.9 points, senior Natosha Hiner scores 6.0 points, senior Jocelyn Sturgill adds 5.5 points and sophomore Brittany Brown scores 3.9 points per game.



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