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Boone gets a 'Little Spike': 5-foot-6 Melchi helps Wolves to sectional win over South Central

NORTH JUDSON -- The smallest guy on the court came up big for Boone Grove on Friday.

Connor Melchi, a 5-foot-6 sophomore with 39 minutes and 10 points on his varsity resume, provided the Wolves with nine points over the final nine minutes of the Class 2A Sectional 34 semifinal against South Central, helping BG advance to the finals with a 47-42 victory.

"(Coach Matt McKay) didn't say too much, just do your thing," Melchi said. "I had to be ready to go when the time came. Coach has always told me I'm out there to score the ball. He believes in me, my teammates believe in me, I believe in myself, so it wasn't hard. (Playing) JV helped me build my confidence as a player. I was ready to go. It's something you've wanted your whole life, so it was nice to get the chance."

BG (17-6) hadn't scored for over seven minutes of the third quarter, watching its 24-16 halftime edge slowly erode. Brendan Carr's basket brought S.C. (14-9) within a point inside the last 60 seconds of the period when Melchi, nicknamed 'Little Spike' by teammate Trey Steinhilber, stepped into a 3 from the left of the key and splashed it. He canned a 15-footer and another triple out of the gate in the fourth to push the Wolves lead to seven (34-27).

"That was huge," McKay said. "He could have played varsity, but he's a sophomore and we're kind of guard heavy. That's a feel good thing when somebody his size can play varsity basketball and contribute

Connor Melchi

like that."

The Satellites were never able to recover, drawing within four in the final minute, but Kyle Casbon and Mason Bills hit six straight free throws to secure the outcome.

"We knew he could shoot it," South Central coach Joe Wagner said of Melchi. "He's pretty tough. He got good looks against our 1-3-1 and he hit 'em."

The scoring burst was crucial in a game where offense didn't come easy after an 11-2 Boone start, when the Wolves were able to exploit the Satellites on drives to the basket. Casbon scored six points in that stretch and a team-high 13 in all.

"Kyle's been coming on the last part of the season," McKay said. "He's fairly quick. In that offense, there's a lot of options if you can see where they are. We just never read what's there. I used to run it with (my son) Ian's group. We put it back in the end of last year. It hasn't been our main offense, but against these guys, I thought we could spread them a little bit since they're so much bigger than we are."

A Bills 3 and steals/scores by Steinhilber and Casbon put Boone up 18-7 in the second quarter.

"The whole goal was to not give up baseline, funnel them to middle, where all our help's at," Wagner said. "We didn't execute well early on."

The same was true on the other end as South Central struggled to find offense with Carr surrounded by a pack of Wolves.

"They shellshocked us coming out in a 3-2," Wagner said. "It's nothing we hadn't seen before, but it was something we hadn't seen from them. We weren't expecting it from them. They changed when (Jarrod) Benkovich went down Tuesday. Our preparation for certain things was different and that goes on me. I'm extremely upset with myself for not having us prepared for that like we needed to be. We didn't shoot it well. We gave up 11 offensive rebounds. That's a recipe for an early exit."

The 6-4 Benkovich was hurt Tuesday and while he was cleared to play Friday, he hadn't practiced.

"He didn't know what we were doing," McKay said. "We wanted to wait and see if we could get away with not playing him, get more treatment, and he might give us some minutes for (Saturday). There was one time we had three guys around (Carr) and he was able to get the ball, and it wasn't a foul because he's 6-8 going over 6-footers. It was fortunate for us (they didn't shoot well). They shot the ball a little better when we played in the regular season (a 41-39 Boone loss) and hurt us with dribble penetration. We didn't shoot exceptionally well, but we were getting a lot better looks going to the basket and hit a couple 3s when we needed to."

Bills added 10 points and Steinhilber nine with three fourth-quarter assists. Drew Murray reeled in 11 rebounds.

"I'm in shock, I'm not going to lie," Wagner said. "We didn't need to be great to win the sectional. We just needed to be good, and we weren't good. There's no doubt about, especially the first quarter to mid-second. We just didn't get everybody's best and we needed that. I saw some nerves from guys who normally don't, but they're not the first 17-, 18-year olds to have that."

Carr, one of five senior regulars, put up 17 points and 12 rebounds, finishing his career with 994 points. Todd Snyder had nine points on three 3s, but S.C. was 4-of-21 from the arc.

"I wasn't ready to lose tonight. I don't think anybody in the locker room was ready to lose either," Carr said. "I've been playing every sport with everybody on the team since first grade. It sucks to end like this."

Boone meets North Judson (8-13), which knocked off LaVille, in Saturday's championship. The Wolves topped the Bluejays 55-50 in the regular season.

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