By J. Daniel Rollins
Register-Herald Sports Writer
Shady Spring has been looking for an identity since losing sharpshooter Chase Connor to graduation.
It’s safe to say the Tigers have now found it.
Shady improved to 3-0 with a 73-52 victory over county rival Independence in the opening round of the Little General Classic in Coal City Thursday night.
“The identity of this team is team,” Shady coach Steve Clark said. “We relied on Chase a lot last year, and this year we’re kind of spreading it around and getting everyone involved. These kids like each other and play well together.”
Shady finished with four played in double figures, including junior big man Tyler Bonds, who had a game-high 23 points.
Bonds used his large frame to move around a smaller Independence team under the basket to help propel his team to victory.
“It was a physical game, but that’s every game,” Bonds said. “It was sloppy — very sloppy — and we don’t like to play like that, but it was tough. We came in here expecting more and we didn’t do that. At least we got the win.”
Despite winning by 21 points, Independence made it a 4-point game late in the second quarter. It was at the half that Shady made the decision to change their defense from a full-court press to man-to-man.
“We went away from trying to press them and played man-to-man and we think that affected them quite a bit,” Clark said.
The half-time adjustment led to a lot of Patriot turnovers and a 20-4 quarter in favor of the Tigers.
“The third quarter they turned the defense up,” Independence coach Chad Perkins said. “We couldn’t run our offense. It was a real physical game and we struggled with that pressure and weren’t able to run our offense.
“Inability to score leads to turnovers and leads to points. We’re young. We play a freshman and a sophomore, but at some point we have to stop using that as an excuse. We either need to step up and answer or be the doormat.”
One bright spot for the Patriots was the play of senior Bill Sargent, who came off the bench, scoring 12 points.
There was a scary moment late in the game when a collision at the top of the key left Shady senior Jordan Meadows down with an apparent head injury. Meadows was helped off the court and did not return to the game.
Clark does not expect Meadows to be able to play in the championship game against Liberty, who defeated River View 78-75 in an overtime thriller in the other opening round game, but does expect two other players to be able to step up in his absence.
“Josh Snyder has been playing really well,” Clark said. “He plays hard defense and handles the ball well. He’s stepping up to be a pretty good leader. Steven Chhabra has improved greatly as well. His confidence is going up and he rebounds well.”
Snyder and Chhabra finished with 15 and 10 points a piece. Meadows left the game with 12 points — all of which game from beyond the arc.
The Tigers will go for their fourth win of the season tonight at 8 p.m. against Liberty, which would show just how far this team has come. Last year Shady started the season 0-5.
“That’s a good turnaround for us,” Clark said. “The kids are playing hard and working hard and they deserve it.”
Bonds, who will be called on a lot against a smaller Liberty team, hopes to win the game for their leader, Meadows.
“It’s going to be tough going out there without him,” he said. “Liberty is Jordan’s favorite team to play against. We have to step up and play for him.”
Before the championship game, Independence will take on River View at 6 p.m.
Shady Spring (3-0)
Drew Green 2 0-0 4, Steven Chhabra 4 2-5 10, Jordan Meadows 4 0-1 12, Joshua Snyder 5 4-6 15, Landon Perry 0 2-2 2, Tyler Bonds 10 3-5 23, Nathan Williams 2 1-4 5, Keith Sexton 1 0-0 2. Totals: 28 12-23 73.
Chris Mills 0 2-2 2, Tyler Haga 1 0-0 3, Andrue Hughart 3 3-5 9, Bill Sargent 4 3-4 12, Adam Tolliver 2 0-1 4, Aaron Hunt 3 0-0 6, Cody Collins 3 4-4 10, Andrew Ballard 0 1-2 1. Totals: 18 15-23 54.
SS 20 11 20 23 — 73
I 15 8 4 25 — 52
3-point goals — SS: 5 (Meadows 4, Snyder); I: 3 (Haga, Sargent, Treadway). Fouled out — None.