Fountain Central traveled across the state line into Illinois on Wednesday to face host Schlarman Academy in the boys’ basketball Topper Classic and the Mustangs came away with a 47-41 win.
It was the first game of the season for both teams and the play in the first half demonstrated that fact, as there were numerous turnovers, air balls and defensive lapses.
The Mustangs opened a 5-0 lead with Colton Robinson hitting a three-pointer and Cody Linville adding a short jumper.
It took over two minutes for the Toppers to get on the board, but once they did, they scored seven in a row before Carson Eberly tied the game at seven-all.
The Mustangs then closed out the quarter on a 4-2 run to lead 11-9.
Defense by the hosts led to a steal that tied the game at 11-11, but Jake Smith made a lay-up and Mason Larkin downed a trey around a Schlarman bucket to put the Mustangs up 16-13.
The Toppers responded with a basket, but Fountain Central answered with back-to-back lay-ups by Ray Duncan and Eberly to lead 20-15 at the halftime intermission.
After the break, the focus and intensity picked up for both squads and the quality of play improved significantly.
The Mustangs opened the third quarter on a 5-2 run for an eight-point lead at 25-17 and the visitors kept the margin close to that until the two-minute mark of the period when Schlarman made a run that closed the gap to two at 30-28 going into the fourth quarter.
The Toppers then took their first lead of the game since being up 9-7 at 1:40 in the first period when they made a three-pointer for a 31-30 score.
Smith answered with a lay-up and then after a Topper trey, Eberly drained a three of his own to put Fountain Central back on top 35-34.
That lead lasted for about a minute before Schlarman made a 6-0 run that only ended when Robinson hit another trey with 1:45 to go to pull the Mustangs within two at 40-38.
Linville hit a three-pointer with 1:20 left in the game to put his team on top for good, with the shot making it 41-40.
Smith made another lay-up off a pass from Ray Duncan for a 43-40 score and then after a Topper free throw, Eberly converted four free throw chances to make the final tally 47-41 in favor of his Mustangs.
Seven players scored for Fountain Central but only Eberly reached double figures with 15 points.
Fountain Central head coach Phil Shabi said his team had much improving to do, but one thing he liked was the way his squad handled falling behind by five in the fourth quarter.
“It would have been easy to fold when they went ahead,” he said, “but the kids didn’t give up and got the win for us.”
Fountain Central would go 2-2 in the Classic as they defeated the Danville JV 50-22, but fell to Milford 41-38 and to eventual champion Bismarck-Henning 68-48.