Size vs. speed. Small town vs. big city.
Those are possible high school basketball story lines at 1 p.m. today as the big kids from the small town of Linton play Speedway in the Class 2A Richmond Semistate.
Purists rushing to Google the population of Speedway might point out that it really isn’t a very big town itself. But the players for coach Chuck Bennett’s Sparkplugs, from the town surrounded on all sides by Indianapolis, are as big-city as their neighbors are and should provide an interesting test for the Miners.
Linton, led by 6-foot-8 Austin Karazsia and 6-5 Dess Fougerousse — both of whom average more than 21 points per game — brings a 23-3 record and an eight-game winning streak into today’s game. The Miners suffered two losses in late December at the Pizza Hut Wabash Valley Classic — in the wake of a season-ending to senior point guard Sam Dyar — but adjusted from there and were otherwise undefeated except for a loss to Clay City a month ago.
Speedway, 21-4, gets 19.5 points per game from 6-3 junior Justin Brent, 17.8 points per game from 6-4 sophomore Anthony Jones and 13.5 points per game from junior point guard Jordan Furlow. The Sparkplugs were unbeaten until early January, when they lost twice in a row — once in the Marion County Tournament — to defending Class 2A state champion Park Tudor and then suffered a 22-point setback against Tri-West.
Since then they’ve won 11 of 12, losing a one-point game at Western Boone in early February.
One of Speedway’s other starting guards is 6-0 senior Austin Anglea, a four-year starter and two-time all-stater at quarterback for the Sparkplugs, incidentally. Between him and Karazsia, nearly 20,000 high school football passing yards will also be represented.
“Furlow, Jones and Brent were [Anglea’s] main receivers,” Bennett pointed out this week.
Speedway avoided Park Tudor in tournament play because the defending champs were knocked out in sectional play by Indianapolis Broad Ripple, the team Speedway beat 43-41 in the regional championship game.
“We enjoy transition,” Bennett said when talking about his team, “but we like to think we play pretty solid defense too [the Sparkplugs are averaging about 62 points per game and allowing about 45]. Lately we’ve had good half-court execution, especially in the tournament.”
Linton’s size is a concern for Bennett, whose team starts three guards and has just one more 6-4 player off the bench in its regular rotation.
“With Linton’s height, they’ll be a challenge,” the coach said. “They’re a very good team. Karazsia has great touch around the basket with both hands, Fougerousse’s game is really nice, [6-4 forward] Jackson Bohnert is solid — I call him a no-stat all-star — and their two guards [Keith Fulk and Bryant Jackson] do a nice job … I’m impressed with their free throw shooting, and they all seem to understand their roles.”
Linton avenged one of its Classic losses by beating Sullivan in sectional play, giving the Miners the edge in a three-game series against the Golden Arrows, and beat a pair of higher ranked teams — Clarksville and Perry Central — at the Southridge Regional last week. The Sparkplugs may pose a different kind of problem, however.
“They’re very athletic,” coach Joey Hart of the Miners said when asked about today’s opponent. “A good team … we’ll have to play well, and we can.”
Guarding the Sparkplugs and keeping them off the offensive glass are keys to the game, Hart said.
“Hold them to one contested shot,” the coach answered when asked what he hoped the Miners would be doing today. “We’re a very good rebounding team, and we should be, but that was almost a bugaboo for us Saturday night [in the win over Perry Central]. We’ll have to rebound better [today], and we can.”
The Sparkplugs have similar goals.
“Finding out how to guard [the Miners’] size and rebounding will be keys for us,” Bennett noted.
Karazsia said this week he just wants his team to keep doing what has gotten it to this point.
“Keeping our composure, and having fun out there [are the keys],” the Linton center said. “Everything is clicking at the right time; we’re a hot team right now.”