Braves, Cougars compete in Salem Shootout



Each year, two Jackson County boys basketball programs spend Father’s Day at Salem High School.

Brownstown Central and Trinity Lutheran traveled to the annual Salem Shootout over the weekend, playing pool games on Saturday before bracket play finalized Sunday.

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Ten teams from across the state played in the tournament, which featured varsity and junior varsity competition.

In Pool ‘A,’ Brownstown opened with wins over Lanesville and Wood Memorial before falling to South Ripley. On Sunday, as a No. 2 seed, the Braves defeated Portage before falling to Orleans in the semifinals.

The reigning Mid-Southern Conference champions will have a new look in the 2019-20 season, as the program graduated six seniors from its roster. Five of last year’s seniors regularly started for the Braves.

“It’s going to be a process,” Braves coach Dave Benter said. “You can’t get frustrated with it, and need to take it one day at a time. Some of it is just us figuring out how hard we need to play every night at the varsity level to be successful. I think we’ve gotten better at that as the summer has went on.

The other thing we’re learning is how skilled you have to be, and how much time needs to be spent to work on that skill. You can’t just show up at practices and expect to play. You have to put time in with the weight room, with ball handling, and shooting. You have to watch basketball and have a good understating. Our guys need to figure that out, but I have seen a lot of improvement.”

BCHS won the shootout in 2018 before going 18-6 during the 2018-19 season.

On top of the usual lifting and individual work, the Braves went to a camp at Hanover College last week. The Braves are again in a league that’s hosted by Salem this summer.

Right now, the Braves have five incoming seniors. With so many young players, Benter has stressed the importance of doing the little things right.

“We’ve had a hard time of putting whole games together throughout the summer. A lot of it is inexperience,” Benter said. “We have been emphasizing how important every possession is. We have a lot of young kids playing. Hopefully our guys learn how critical every possession is as they get more experience and older. We’ve talked about defensive rebounding, our spacing and ball movement on offense, turnovers, and winning 50-50- balls. Those are things we can control. As the summer has gone one, we’ve gotten better at that.”

Benter said that a lot can change in the months leading up to the season, and that playing time is on the table.

“I told our guys that I don’t care what grade they’re in. If you’re one of our guys that are skilled and competes, you’re going to be on the floor,” he said. “Our young guys maybe aren’t ready physically, but some of them skill-wise and athletic-wise are doing some things that have helped us. We’re going to need some of those guys to step up.

“These next five to six months determine a lot. I’ve had players in the past that have completely changed their games from the last summer games to the first practice of the season. We’ve played 11 different guys this summer. it will be interesting to see who the guys are that will step up.”

Trinity Lutheran had a slow start to its tournament — dropping games to Brown County and Portage — but bounced back with a victory over Corydon Central.

Going 1-2, the Cougars had to play an extra game on Sunday in elimination play.

The Cougars had a solid second day, as they picked up wins over Wood Memorial and Salem before falling to Lanesville in the tourney semis. Lanesville went on to win the tournament by beating Orleans.

First-year coach Michael McBride said that he has seen improvement from his group this summer.

“A team (Salem) that we lost to last week in this league, we were up on them by 20-something at half,” he said. “We are understanding things and progressing. We’re going in the right direction. Each time we come out, we’re just trying to get a little bit better. They are still trying to get to know me and I’m still trying to get to know them. We tell them that they’re playing against themselves. I think we got better.”

Trinity went 6-18 last year, and graduated five players from its roster. However, the Cougars return four of its regular starters this year in senior Josh Rowe, juniors Tyler Goecker and Jack Marksberry, and sophomore Mitchell Hackman.

The Cougars, which also play in the Salem league, were also in the Henryville Shootout two weeks ago.

This summer, the Cougars have stayed busy on the hardwood.

“We’re doing some open gym stuff,” McBride said. “The next two weeks are pretty busy. We’re going to scrimmage Columbus East and then we’re going to do a team camp and youth camp. That last Friday in June we’re going to scrimmage Brown County and then be done for the summer.

“In July, we’re going to talk to the kids individually. We’re going to tell them what they need to do between now and when the season starts. They are going to have goals to reach.”

McBride has told his kids to trust the process this summer.

“We tell them that this process is like eating an elephant. The only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time,” McBride said.

In the junior varsity tournament, Corydon Central defeated Jeffersonville in the championship game. Brownstown fell to Jeff in the semis after opening the day with a win over Trinity.

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