Emotional ending: Coach hails ‘special group’ after OT heartbreak


There wasn’t an emotion that didn’t fill the team or crowd Saturday in Washington.

Brownstown Central and Evansville Bosse, two of the premier boys basketball teams in Class 3A, exchanged blows like two gladiators in a coliseum.

The regional semifinals hosted in the Hatchet House saw a battle to the end, which needed extra time to decide a victor.

By the final buzzer in overtime, Bosse remained standing 81-71.

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The Bulldogs (19-7) outscored the Braves 16-6 in the extra time after tying the game at 65-65 with less than five seconds left in the game.

For Brownstown’s 10 seniors, it was an end of a long run together on the hardwood.

Braves coach Dave Benter said the senior group meant a lot to the program and community.

“I just thanked the seniors. It’s a special group,” Benter said of his postgame speech. “This group has played together since they could pick up a ball. Very rarely do you get 10 seniors. It’s a tough group to say goodbye to. I care about each and every one of those guys and wish nothing but the best for them.”

Despite shooting just 25.6 percent from the field in the first half on 39 shot attempts, the Braves (24-3) would lead at intermission.

In the first quarter, the teams traded the lead five times, with neither side building an advantage of more than four points.

Senior Carson Lambring took the bulk of the scoring for the Braves, recording seven of the team’s 11 points as they trailed by four going into the second quarter.

After exchanging baskets for the first three minutes of the second quarter, the Braves’ offense exploded.

Bosse picked up its eighth foul at the 5:02 mark, and the Braves attacked the basket with authority.

Brownstown scored 13 unanswered points in the final five minutes of the first half to go up 32-24 going into the break, with Lambring scoring seven and fellow seniors Cody Waskom and Ty Maxie each adding three in the span.

The Braves took advantage of the Bulldogs’ foul troubles, making eight of 13 free throws, while Bosse racked up 14 fouls.

On the boards, the Braves were tenacious, outrebounding the Bulldogs 26-17 with 14 offensive rebounds.

In turnovers, the Braves had just two to the Bulldogs’ seven giveaways.

“I thought the three things were rebounding, taking care of the ball and getting back. We did all three so well in the first half,” Benter said. “We physically battled every possession and really hurt them on the backboard in the first half.”

Junior Mekhi Lairy, who had 17 points, proved the lone thorn in the Braves’ side.

A basket from Lairy and a 3-pointer by Jaylin Chinn cut the Bulldogs’ deficit to 32-29 with 6:54 left in the third quarter.

Waskom and senior Derek Rieckers responded with scores, but the Bulldogs wouldn’t go away.

From the 2:20 to 33 seconds mark, the Bulldogs built a 6-0 run to retake the lead at 43-41.

In the final three seconds of the third quarter, the Braves did the improbable by adding four points.

After a putback score from Rieckers, Lambring stole the inbounds pass and got a basket to fall at the buzzer.

With 24 minutes behind them, the Braves led 45-43.

Waskom scored the Braves’ first nine points of the fourth quarter, as the Braves led 56-51 with 4:16 left in regulation.

Following a pair of made free throws from Lambring, the Bulldogs battled back to retake the lead at 57-56 with 2:42 on the clock.

An offensive putback by senior Gavin Bane and a teardrop shot from Maxie gave the Braves a 60-59 advantage with 1:45 left.

Despite Brownstown going 3 for 4 from the free throw line, Bosse kept the game within two down the stretch and had the ball under the basket with 7.6 ticks.

The first shot by the Bulldogs was blocked by Waskom, but Lairy snagged his own rebound. Lairy’s went up and the ball fell short, and teammate Javien Langley put the ball back up and in to tie the game.

A three-quarter-court heave fell short for the Braves, sending the game into a four-minute overtime.

“I thought we controlled three-fourths of regulation,” Benter said. “We had every opportunity at the end to win the game. One stop or one made free throw late, and we just didn’t get it.”

The Bulldogs scored the first seven points in overtime, led by a 3-pointer by Jaidon Hunter and a dunk from Langley, to go up 72-65 at the 1:54 mark.

Despite three baskets from Lambring, the Braves couldn’t make the comeback before the final buzzer.

Lambring led the Braves with 26 points, Waskom had 20 and senior Gavin Bane added 10.

Lairy led all scorers with 40 points to go along with seven rebounds and five assists.

Each team finished with 45 rebounds, but for the Braves, 25 showed offensive.

The turnovers margin also went to the Braves 5-13.

From the floor, the Braves shot 27.5 percent to the Bulldogs’ 50.9.

“As a coach, you don’t want to look forward, but this Bosse team has a chance to win state,” Benter said. “We felt the same way. We felt like if we could get past this game, you never know what could happen. It was a lot of little things. I can’t be more proud of the way our guys played. They mentally and physically battled.”