Independence had everything to gain and virtually nothing to lose when it entertained county rival Shady Spring Friday in Coal City.
The Tigers came to town sporting an undefeated record and the No. 1 ranking in the latest Class AA poll, while the Patriots were still trying to find their way under first-year head coach Mike Green.
Playing without all-state guard Tommy Williams, who was out with an ankle injury, Shady Spring weathered an early Indy storm to stay undefeated with a 78-63 win.
"I thought we had spurts where we played really good," Shady Spring head coach Ronnie Olson said. "Honestly, that is the first game I have coached in four years without Tommy. Obviously, he is our leading scorer and one of the best players in the state, hands down. But he is also one of our best defenders and best rebounder.
"We have to move on and learn how to play without Tommy. We are still the No. 1 team even without Tommy and for a couple of quarters, they played like it."
Although Shady never trailed in the game, the Tigers struggled to put Indy away early. Leading 17-12 late in the first quarter, the Tigers began to find success driving the lane and forcing turnovers with their pressure defense.
"I thought we were undisciplined tonight and played out of control," Green said about his team. "We made way too many mistakes and had way too many turnovers. You just can't play the way we did tonight and have a chance to win. I challenged our team and we just didn't respond."
Seven straight points put the visitors up 12 and that is where the game stood at the end of the first period.
Jarred Cannady drilled a 3 for Indy to open the second quarter. Zach Bolen then powered his way to the basket, drawing a foul on the score to cut the Shady lead back six, but that would be the closest Indy would get the rest of the way.
A 3 from Todd Duncan and a strong drive from Braden Chapman, who had 19 points in the opening half, pushed the lead back to double digits.
"I thought they were collapsing on Luke (LeRose) and I talked to Braden and told him we needed him to do a little more," Olson said. "We are going to need guys to step up in every part of the game while Tommy is out."
Leading 45-34 at the break, Shady ran off seven straight points to open the third quarter to create some breathing room.
"I didn't think (Independence) could handle our pressure and it showed some with the turnovers they had. We were a little lazy guarding the ball and we wanted to stop letting them go by us," Olson said. "They were driving and kicking 3s in the corner. We just got back to sitting on people, playing downhill and creating turnovers."
Another 3 from Duncan pushed the lead to 19 points before back-to-back buckets by the Patriots temporarily curbed the momentum. Senior Grey Hazuka restored order for Shady with three straight triples to build a 24-point lead late in the third quarter.
"Grey Hazuka gave us some great minutes tonight and he came in ready to play," Olson said.
With 2:36 to play, Shady led by 25 points before a late 10-0 spurt by the Patriots cut into the lead.
"We are still young, not only in age, but also in basketball," Green said. "We still have two starters that struggle with the help concept on defense. That just comes from inexperience and me not doing a good job of explaining that to them. However, I like my team and I think once March comes around, we are going to be OK. Shady is a great team, but it is still frustrating."
Shady Spring (12-0) will look to remain undefeated when it hosts Liberty Tuesday. Independence (7-6) hosts Sherman Monday.
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Shady Spring (12-0)
Greyson Shepherd 12, Luke LeRose 12, Braden Chapman 26, Grey Hazuka 9, Todd Duncan 6, Erick Bevil 1, Cole Chapman 6, Haven Chapman 6. Totals: 78.
A.J. Zilinski 6, Cyrus Goodson 8, Carter Adkins 3, Michael McKinney 12, Jarred Cannady 15, Zach Bolen 13, Garrett Brooks 3, Josh Perry 1, Connor Cantley 2. Totals: 63.
SS: 26 19 20 13 — 78
I: 14 20 8 21 — 63
3-point goals: SS: 12 (Shepherd, LeRose, B. Chapman 3, Hazuka 3, Duncan 2, C. Chapman 2), I 5 (Adkins, Cannady 2, Bolen, Brooks). Fouled out: Goodson