Learning curve: Braves, Cougars try out new faces in Summer Shootout



Packed to the brim with teams from within — and outside — state lines, a pair of Jackson County schools went to work at the Randy Johnson Fieldhouse.

Brownstown Central and Trinity Lutheran’s varsity and JV boys basketball teams both competed in the 16-team field at the Salem Summer Shootout over the weekend.

Following pool play Saturday, the teams were seeded on Father’s Day in an elimination bracket.

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Braves feature new faces

Losing 10 seniors of their 12-man roster from 2016-17, Brownstown will have a new look look this season.

Incoming senior Cameron Luedeman and junior Michael Boshears — who both got minutes last winter — are the only two back from last year’s varsity team.

“It has been an adjustment,” Braves coach Dave Benter said. “We’ve been really inconsistent this summer. We’ve played really well at times and really poorly at times. The big thing we need right now is leadership and communication.

“The good thing is that it’s something we control. We don’t have a ton of size, but we didn’t have it last year, either. We always preach controlling what we can control, and that’s an area we need to get better at.”

The Braves fell to Christian Academy before topping Portage and Eastern on day one.

On Sunday, Brownstown beat Orleans before falling to Paoli.

Franklin Community, finishing 7-0, won the varsity tournament.

“We’ve got to learn,” Benter said. “Some of it is high expectations of what I want from them. Some of it is them getting used to going up against varsity players. The game’s faster, and they’re playing against bigger and better basketball players.”

Benter said the new faces will hang their cap on doing the little things well.

“We have to become a better shooting team,” he said. “That’s an area we have to get better at. I think that we can become an OK defensive team, but our communication needs to improve. I think we need some practice time where we get some of that worked on. We have the potential to guard well.

“We’re not going to be able to score as well as some of the teams in past years. I always talk to them about doing the little things — defending, rebounding and taking care of the ball — there will always be a chance. Those are going to be our areas where we look to have strengths.”

With so many open spots to fill on the roster, younger players are fighting for positions.

“We’ve proven in the past that if a young kid is ready we will play them,” Benter said. “We will play whoever we need to that will give us the best chance to win. We’ve looked at some different kids throughout the summer and will continue to do that.

“There’s a lot that can happen the next five months. We have some young guys that are close, and if they come back and are better than the older guys, then they will play ahead of them. It will be interesting to see what happens.”

Coached by Marty Young, the JV team went 3-0 in pool play by beating North Harrison, Alexandria and Borden.

The JV Braves then bested Orleans and Clarksville before falling to Portage in the championship matchup by seven points.

Cougars challenging underclassmen

Facing a handful of Class 3A and 4A schools that they don’t see in the regular season, Trinity Lutheran likes the challenge of the shootout in Salem.

“The reason we come is because there is a lot of good competition and a lot of games in one weekend,” Cougars coach Brian Stuckwisch said. “It gives us a chance to play a lot of players in different positions and lets us see what we need to work on for the rest of the summer.”

Like Brownstown, Trinity is looking to find the right places for its players.

Stuckwisch said the Cougars return two players from last year’s varsity team and are moving a handful of players up from the JV team.

“We have a lot of new faces — a lot of incoming freshmen,” Stuckwisch said. “There are a lot of kids fighting for varsity spots. The teams we’re playing are a lot more athletic and stronger than us with a lot of seniors It’s good for us to play a lot of teams that are better than us to see what we’re made of and what we need to work on.”

In the tourney, Stuckwisch said he liked the energy from the team.

“I like our effort and hustle right now,” he said. “Everyone is playing aggressive. We need to work on our fundamentals, blocking out and rebounding. Those win games down the stretch. We need to get more conditioning in. We’re out of shape right now.”

The JV team went 1-4 in its bracket, picking up a win after going 0-3 on Saturday.

While the team does look at success, a big part of summer work is improving the individual parts

“You kind of gauge (the shootout) as working on each individual so we can be better as a team,” Stuckwisch said. “The main thing I’m looking for is chemistry. I want to see which kids work well together on the court. As long as the chemistry comes together, we can build off that.”

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