Brownstown Central’s boys basketball team sits right there with the best teams in state.
Four unbeaten squads, including two No. 1-ranked schools, entered the Graber Post Buildings Classic tournament this past week, and the Braves were the only ones to emerge unblemished.
Brownstown (8-0) retained the championship title, as it defeated Pike Central (8-1) 70-62 on Saturday.
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After being down early in the first quarter, Brownstown went on a 9-0 run behind five points by senior Zach McCory by the 3:09 mark.
Back-to-back 3-pointers by the Chargers’ Tyler Toopes and Colton White tied the game at 11 with 1:18 on the clock, but a basket before the buzzer from Cam Shoemaker would give the Braves a 15-13 lead after eight minutes of play.
Pike Central gave up seven turnovers in the first quarter to Brownstown’s two giveaways.
The game’s tempo picked up in the second quarter, with both teams exploding from the field.
The Braves took their largest lead of the first half at 24-15 after a 3-pointer by Jacoby Shade with 6:18 before intermission.
However, the Chargers closed the gap by scoring points in transition.
Pike Central finished the final 2:25 on an 11-4 run, capped by a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Gabe Elliot to trail 40-39.
Braves coach Dave Benter made adjustments at halftime that immediately translated to start the second half.
“The big thing was letting them score in transition,” he said. “I don’t know what their percentage of points were in transition in the first half, but it seemed like 75 percent were there. I thought we did a much better job of stopping them in the second half.”
Brownstown started the third quarter on a 14-4 run behind five points by McCory and four apiece from Shade and Shoemaker.
“We were pretty solid defensively in the half-court. We were just getting killed in transition,” McCory said. “We were able to get some stops, which helped.”
Cody Waskom made a 3-pointer, grabbed a steal on the inbounds, was fouled and hit two free throws to give the Braves a 60-46 advantage with a minute left in the third quarter.
The Braves only gave up seven points before the final eight minutes while adding 22 to their total.
“In the third quarter, we played outstanding,” Benter said. “We played well on both ends of the floor. We got up by 16 points but started making poor decisions in the fourth quarter.”
While the end wasn’t pretty for the Braves, giving up six turnovers in the fourth quarter, they were able to hold on for the victory.
McCory led Brownstown with 20 points, Waskom added 16 and Shade tallied 15.
Trey Wornica topped the Chargers’ scoring with 17 points, and White and Noah Croak each chipped in 13.
McCory was named the tournament’s MVP, joining Waskom, Shoemaker and Shade on the all-tournament team.
“(McCory) is a tough matchup,” Benter said. “He does so many things for us. He rebounds, can score inside and outside. Zach is so unselfish. He doesn’t care if he scores or is distributing the basketball. Sometimes, we need to be more selfish with him. We need to use it as building blocks.”
En route to their trophy, the Braves defeated Class 2A No. 1 Barr Reeve and South Knox.
“It’s good for our team,” Shade said of the tournament win. “We needed this win. It will bring us together and is big for this team. It was nice to play some good teams.”
Pike Central defeated Class 3A No. 1 Park Tudor on Tuesday.
Benter said this year’s tournament was the most competitive it has ever been.
“This is by far the best this tournament has been this year with four undefeated teams coming in,” Benter said. “They told us when we first signed on to this tournament they wanted to make this the best small-school tournament in the state, and they’ve done an outstanding job of making it that way.”
While the Braves played some strong ball this past week, Benter said he thinks the best is yet to come.
“I don’t think we’ve played our best basketball yet, and that’s OK,” he said. “We need to be playing our best basketball at the end of the season. We need to use it as a steppingstone.”