Greenwood and New Castle can’t refer to it as a boys basketball rivalry.
At least not yet.
But if Friday night’s get together is any indication of things to come, this newly formed series featuring no shortage of talented underclassmen might indeed evolve into something special.
Led by 6-foot-5 freshman forward Mason Gillis’s game-high 28 points and eight rebounds, the visiting Trojans needed overtime to spoil the Woodmen season-opener in overtime, 96-92.
Longtime Woodmen coach Bruce Hensley couldn’t remember the last time one of his teams produced that kind of point total, though a 104-100 win against Perry Meridian in four OTs early in the 1997-98 season is what initially came to mind.
“That’s what I said to (the team) is I can’t remember the last time we scored 92 points. It was enjoyable. I was happy with how we played. You never know because you have some guys who have no varsity experience, but I thought our guys really stepped up,” Hensley said.
“We had guys scrambling, we had guys hurt. We had guys that played the JV game that came in. We got good minutes out of everyone.”
Trailing 70-61 early in the fourth stanza, Greenwood chipped away and even took its first lead since the opening quarter on two free throws by sophomore guard Max Raker at the 4:03 mark.
Back-and-forth the teams went, New Castle holding an 84-81 lead in the waning seconds before another Woodmen sophomore, swingman Eric Moenkhaus splashed a clutch 3-pointer from the right baseline at 3.5 seconds to force overtime.
The Trojans tallied the first eight points of the extra session to basically put it out of reach.
Raker and another sophomore guard, Braydon Kincaid, led the Greenwood attack with 23 points apiece. Moenkhaus added 19 in a losing effort with senior point guard and three-year Woodmen starter Justin Conley contributed 17 before fouling out in overtime.
New Castle scored 27 points at the charity stripe in 37 attempts.
“The word we used after the game was ‘encouraging’,” Hensley said. “I thought our effort was really, really good. I like the way we handled the adversity and had great leadership from Justin Conley on the floor.”
Sixteen of Gillis’s points and four of his rebounds were in the opening half to lead the Trojans to a 45-39 lead.
Greenwood committed 16 first-half fouls, which explains the visitors toeing the free throw line for 22 free-throw attempts — 15 of which were by Gillis.
The 6-1 Moenkhaus produced the Woodmen’s first seven points of the game. Greenwood would lead by as many as five points on four different occasions in the opening stanza only to see New Castle take control in the second.
With 2:07 remaining before halftime the Trojans’ lead had swelled to 12 points (40-28).
However, a 3-point basket by Conley followed by the senior working an old-fashioned three-point sequence cut the margin in half.
The Woodmen (0-1) are back in action tonight at home against Greenwood Christian Academy, while New Castle (2-0) is off until hosting North Central Conference rival Anderson on Dec. 5.