OVER AND OUT: Shawe’s Zach Brooks (above, left) and Grayson Rhoten give in to their emotions after fouling out of Tuesday’s sectional opener at South Decatur. The Hilltoppers’ Brad Koehler (below) lofts a jumper over Rising Sun’s Nick Sporleder. Koehler led the Hilltoppers with 15 points and Rhoten added 14 but that was no match for the Shiners in the 56-39 loss. (Staff photos by Mark Campbell)
OVER AND OUT: Shawe’s Zach Brooks (above, left) and Grayson Rhoten give in to their emotions after fouling out of Tuesday’s sectional opener at South Decatur. The Hilltoppers’ Brad Koehler (below) lofts a jumper over Rising Sun’s Nick Sporleder. Koehler led the Hilltoppers with 15 points and Rhoten added 14 but that was no match for the Shiners in the 56-39 loss. (Staff photos by Mark Campbell)
WESTPORT - Shawe was very optimistic about its chances to make some postseason noise heading into its Class A Sectional 60 tournament opener on Tuesday. Despite a 1-19 record, the Hilltoppers only needed two wins against two four-win teams to earn a spot in Saturday's championship game.

A chance at a fresh start however was short-lived. Shawe's regular-season woes carried over into the postseason resulting in a 56-39 loss to Rising Sun in the sectional's opening round at South Decatur. For Hilltopper head coach Matt Traylor, it was the final gasp in a season filled with both stress and frustration.

"It was the same story tonight. Everything we have struggled with, everything that we have talked about came back and bit us again," Traylor said. "From a basketball IQ standpoint it has to get better and that is my fault. A lot of that stems from the summer and that is ultimately my fault. We didn't play in enough leagues outside of basketball season and that has to get done. I guess there is just a lot of basic stuff that I didn't teach well enough at the beginning of the season."

A quick 3-pointer by Kaelan Jines put Shawe up 3-0 and on the next offensive possession the Hilltoppers turned back the clock, stalling against a rather dormant Rising Sun defense. The plan allowed the Hilltoppers to control the tempo for most of the quarter but according to Traylor, that was not the original game plan.

"It wasn't by design," Traylor noted. "We were up 3-0 and they were just sitting back and allowing us to sit there as well. There was no reason for us to go. We made them come after us."

Picking the tempo back up near the midway point of the quarter, Grayson Rhoten shook free and canned two 3-pointers to pace Shawe to a 9-7 lead after the first period. But the wheels went all directions to begin the second quarter, sending the Hilltoppers on a downward spiral that would last the rest of the night.

After playing patient basketball over the first eight minutes, Shawe's pace was too fast in the second quarter. Poor shot selection alongside turnovers doomed the Hilltoppers.

Shawe made just one field goal in the frame while Rising Sun capitalized on its end with five players scoring - including four by Brady Murray - as the Shiners grabbed an 18-15 halftime lead.

"We actually called a timeout in the first quarter and talked about not settling," Traylor said. "I think we shot around nine threes in that half and I think we just get so caught up in the moment. Rising Sun didn't guard us individually. They defended us in the passing lanes and we couldn't figure it out for the life of us. We took quick shots and when we did pass the ball it either got stolen or deflected. It was just little things like that."

But by no means was Shawe out of the contest, However, once the second half started more problems quickly piled on as Rising Sun got eight points from Austin Armstrong and six from Murray to push its lead to 34-26.

In addition to the turnovers and offensive woes, the Hilltoppers also found themselves in trouble defensively, mainly due to fouls. Rhoten picked up his fourth foul with 6:25 left in the third and Brad Koehler and Zach Brooks were each whistled for their third fouls just minutes later.

In return, Rising Sun got 10 free-throw attempts throughout the quarter - knocking down seven - while Shawe was forced to juggle its lineup the rest of the second half.

"We were short-handed anyway," Traylor said. "Sid Thevenow did not play because of an injury he was still recovering from and Whit Grote sprains his ankle during pregame warmups. We're not a very deep team and when you're without two starters we are forced to put some guys into some different spots that they had never played before. It was a challenge to adapt to that situation."

Shawe knocked down a few more baskets in the fourth quarter but the Hilltoppers saw Rhoten, Jines and Brooks all foul out as Rising Sun just kept piling on more free throws. The Shiners were 12-of-16 from the foul stripe, helping push their lead into double-digits to ultimately secure the 56-39 win.

Shawe was led by Koehler's 15 points including 12 in the second half. Rhoten hit four 3-pointers en route to 14.

Rising Sun (5-16) put four players in double figures with Austin Armstrong leading the way with 14 points. Kurtis Armstrong scored 13 while Murray and Nick Sporleader had 10 points each.

Shawe finishes the season at 1-20 and now enters a crucial offseason. With all five starters returning, including seven back off the varsity bench, the Hilltoppers could be a much improved team next season.

"We've got varsity coaches including myself spending more and more time with the junior high and elementary kids and those kids are getting taught now," Traylor said. "If there is no improvement from the guys coming back there are going to be some guys pressing for playing time. We've got some kids that are young and that can be really good but they've got to realize that if they don't start showing that promise then there are going to be newcomers taking away their playing time."

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CLASS A SECTIONAL 60

at Westport

Tuesday's Opening Round

RISING SUN 56, SHAWE 39



RISING SUN (5-16) - (g)A. Armstrong 14, (g)K. Armstrong 13, (g)Murray 10, (f)Sporleader 10, Uhlmansiek 4, (f)Morris 3, McClellan 2, Wagner 0, Brown 0, Sullivan 0, Camden 0, Eldridge 0.

SHAWE (1-20) - (f)Koehler 15, (f)Rhoten 14, (g)Jines 7, Wisman 1, Brooks 1, C. Grote 1, (g)W. Grote 0, (g)Bear 0, Blanchard 0, D.Carillo-Valentin 0, Rios-Garcia 0.



3-Point Goals - Shawe 5 (Rhoten 4, Jines 1), Rising Sun 2 (K.Armstrong 1, Murray 1), Shawe 5 (Rhoten 4, Jines 1). Total Fouls - Rising Sun 16, Shawe 26. Free Throws - Rising Sun 24-36, Shawe 12-18. Fouled Out - Shawe: Jines, Rhoten, Brooks. Technical Fouls - Shawe: Rhoten. Next Game - Rising Sun plays South Decatur in the Sectional 60 semifinals on Friday; Shawe's season ends.