No. 6 Spartans own 2nd half

South Knox's Abe Singleton (3) and North Knox's Josiah Mackey battle for a 50-50 ball as Warriors keeper Gage French looks on Tuesday at North Knox.

BICKNELL — North Knox contained South Knox for nearly 60 minutes in their county and Blue Chip Conference clash on Tuesday, but the Spartans needed only the final 20 minutes to flex their muscles.

Tristian Wirth's long throw-ins led to a trio of goals, and Class A No. 6 South Knox breezed by the Warriors, 6-0, to clinch its second consecutive outright conference championship.

Wirth's throws provided assists to a pair of Dakota Candler headed goals, and another allowed Candler to assist an Abe Singleton goal. Owen Lancaster added a pair of goals, and Logan Mise recorded the final tally.

The first half was mostly a stalemate, but the Spartans (14-1-1, 6-0 Blue Chip) were granted a penalty kick in the 22nd minute after North Knox was called for a handball in the box. Lancaster put in the PK, and that 1-0 score held up for nearly 40 minutes.

Cole Jones set up a few scoring chances for the Warriors (3-8-1, 1-4-1) in the opening half, but several shots were pushed wide. South Knox controlled possession for most of the final 10 minutes, with Lancaster putting a pair of shots on goal.

“We didn't seem to come out to play in the first half,” South Knox coach Tim Goodwin said. “At halftime we challenged them. I asked if they wanted to try to get back on the bus to see if they got back off ready to play. They responded well. We played our kind of game, we picked up the intensity, and we were much more aggressive in the second half.”

North Knox nearly put in the equalizer before South Knox's offensive eruption. Jones' through pass set up R.J. Kaetzel for a one-on-one against Spartans' keeper Logan Fisher, but Kaetzel didn't get enough power behind the shot, and Fisher made the easy save.

With 20:20 showing, Wirth's long throw from the sideline set up Candler, who perfectly headed it to the far post, and Singleton was there to head it by Warriors' keeper Gage French. Less than three minutes later, from the opposite sideline, Wirth tossed in another strong throw. Candler headed that one into the net on his own to make it 3-0 with 17:57 remaining.

At the 16:21 mark, French ran up to play a through pass from Parker Kimmell. French got a hand on it, but Lancaster pushed in the deflection for a 4-0 lead. Two minutes later, Wirth picked up his second assist, and Candler was once again successful on the receiving end. The 5-0 margin stuck for nearly 10 minutes, when Logan Mise scored on a free kick from about 25 yards out for the final tally with 4:40 showing.

“Wirth has had a solid year for us, and so have Dakota and Shannon (Benock) in the back row,” Goodwin said. “He's spurred us in a couple games this year, and he came through again tonight a few times.

“We're happy to win the conference again, but you can see for these kids, it's almost just another game. Their focus in the sectional. We're happy to have it, but we like to play for bigger (postseason) trophies.”

Fisher finished with two saves for the Spartans while French managed nine.

“There isn't much to say. They just played faster, and they picked it up in the second half,” North Knox coach Robert Cullen said. “We played them hard in the first half, but things just didn't roll our way. Gage did a good job. He played well back there. They were just better than us today.”

North Knox visits West Vigo at 5:30 p.m. Thursday to close out the regular season, while the Spartans take on Washington Catholic at 5 p.m. Monday in the Class A South Knox Sectional opener

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