The Indian Creek boys basketball team opened the season with five straight wins. But heading into Friday night’s game against visiting Monrovia, the Braves had lost four straight.
So junior forward Austin Smith made sure Indian Creek got back on the right side of the win-loss column.
In the first half alone, Smith scored 17 points to help catapult the Class 3A Braves to a 69-64 win against Class 2A Monrovia in the nonconference game.
Smith, who led all scorers with 22 points on 7-of-9 shooting and grabbed a game-high eight rebounds, was relieved the Braves snapped the skid.
“I know, for a while, we had a bad taste in our mouth and a weight on our chest from losing,” Smith said. “But we got this win, and now we’re ready to get a (Mid-Hoosier) conference win next week.”
Before halftime, Smith made 6 of 6 from the field, sank 5 of 5 free throws and recorded five boards. He credited his stat line to being in the right place at the right time.
“I was feeling pretty good,” Smith said. “I’m just glad they got the ball to me. I was open, and it just felt good. I played my heart out.”
Junior Guard Brett DeHart finished 19 points, and senior guard Matthew Wray added 12 points and seven rebounds for the Braves.
Monrovia (6-7) and Indian Creek (9-6) each shot 51 percent from the floor. But the Braves added 23 points from the free-throw line compared to just four by the Bulldogs.
Indian Creek, which never trailed, won the rebound battle 25-22 and committed only eight turnovers.
Braves coach Derek Perry applauded his team’s effort in ending its losing streak.
“My goodness, that seemed like a long stretch that was never going to end,” Perry said. “But through all of this, we’ve had good practices. We’ve just come out and played down to the level of our competition.
“Hopefully, this gives us a boost of confidence, which we’re desperately needing.”
Perry also praised Smith’s effort.
“He played like an animal,” Perry said. “We’ve been after him in practice just to be aggressive on the offensive glass. He showed how he can play tonight. He’s just got to do that night in and night out.”
Indian Creek jumped out to a 10-2 lead to start the game as DeHart made back-to-back buckets followed by a 3-point play from Smith.
But Monrovia answered with a 6-2 run and trailed 18-10 after the first quarter.
The Braves continued to score by getting the ball to Smith in the paint. The Bulldogs, however, kept it close with 11 second-quarter points from senior forward Logan Fite.
Indian Creek held on to a 34-30 lead at halftime.
After the break, DeHart got going offensively with nine points in the third quarter to help the Braves pull away. Indian Creek matched Monrovia almost shot-for-shot in the final period to close out the win.
Fite led the Bulldogs with 22 points. Senior Chase Casteel, a 6-foot-5 center, added 13 points and a team-high seven rebounds.
Indian Creek plays again Feb. 2 when it visits MHC foe Edinburgh, which beat the Braves 82-78 in double overtime in the Johnson County Tournament earlier this month.
Perry said the Braves are looking forward to the rematch.
“I shouldn’t have to say anything to our kids after that loss,” Perry said. “I think they’re motivated and ready to go. That’s ultimately going to be for the conference, too.”