Everyone knows the saying, “In 49 other states it’s just basketball.” You know the rest. If basketball was a holiday, today would make this Christmas Eve for Fayette and Union County. Union Countians travel down 44 West every year by any means necessary. Some brave UC students even dribble 13 miles to Connersville for the “un”official start of high school basketball.
The opening game rivalry is just one of the staples that the Spartans and their fans have enjoyed for decades. Included in the staples are 60 sectional championships with the first coming 100 years ago in 1922, 20 regional championships, and a 2-0 Record in the state championship game (1972, 83) putting Connersville as one of the most storied programs in the state of Indiana.
Spartan head coach Kerry Brown has seven seniors on his roster this year, including last season’s leading scorer Lucas Barron, who averaged 10.3 points per game. Brown’s team finished last season 18-7 and a perfect 7-0 in Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference games, winning the conference outright for the second season in a row. The Spartans’ season was cut short a season ago, after a first-round sectional loss to Greensburg.
Brothers Josh and James Williams, along with Braxton Myers, all return with varsity experience. The Spartans will be a favorite to win the EIAC again this year; with their size (5 players over 6’2”) and experience, they will be a tough team to beat.
Coach Brown always has two things that work in his favor. 1) He has a very solid and well coached defense. 2) His bench players are just as solid as his starters. That’s how he has racked up 210 wins over the last 13 years in Connersville and 292 over his career.
The Spartans’ first test will be against the Union County Patriots tomorrow evening. The Patriots have a new coach this year, Bobby Jones, who last coached at Hagerstown winning 131 games from 2009-18. Last year’s contest wasn’t exactly a contest as the Spartans routed UC 55-12. Over the last 35 years, Connersville has lost this opening night matchup just one time (2010), going 41-1 over the time frame.