Braves, Cougars look to continue fast starts


It’s only fitting that the Brownstown Central and Trinity Lutheran girls basketball teams are off to a hot start.

Picking up from where their volleyball counterparts lefts off in the fall, the Cougars (11-1) and Braves (9-2) sport the best two records in the county. Expectations are running high at both programs, and there are some lofty postseason goals being set in Seymour and Brownstown.

But the state tournament draw is a month away, and right now, the Braves and Cougars are setting their sights on the Toby Yoho Classic, which begins today and runs through Saturday at Eastern Greene High School and Eastern Greene Elementary School.

Should both teams go unbeaten in pool play and in the semifinals, they could meet in the championship game. It would be a rematch of their Nov. 19 matchup at the Bollinger Athletic Complex that the Braves won by 10 points.

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Each team is coming into the tournament with different agendas in mind.

For Brownstown Central, they’re looking to rebound after suffering just their second loss of the year, 64-57, to Class 3A No. 5 Silver Creek on Saturday in overtime. The Braves showed a lot of character in spite of defeat, battling back from as many as 13 points down.

The Braves are winning games by an average of 10 points and are holding teams to just more than 45 points a game. 

Coach Brandon Allman believes it’s that defense that has allowed his girls to be tied for the Mid-Southern Conference lead halfway through the season.

"Just defensive stops and some crucial turnovers," he said.

Against the Dragons, the Braves fought back to take the lead but weren’t able to close them out in regulation. The next step for the Braves, Allman said, is to learn how to put an opponent away.

"We just need to be able to finish out games, learn how to finish games, have confidence in our ball handling and being able to go to the free throw line to end games," he said. "I think we’re getting there."

Brownstown is built to frustrate teams defensively. 

Players like Ashley Schroer and Katherine Benter have the speed to penetrate the lane and skill to score on most interior defenses. But when those defenses collapse the middle, they know they can kick it out to freshman Maddy Hackman, who drains 3-pointers at a high clip.

The Dragons knew last Saturday, running her off the 3-point line whenever they could. Still, she was able to knock down three long balls, one of which gave the Braves their first lead of the game at the end of the third quarter.

"It’s great for her right now because she’s getting a lot of open shots," Allman said. "We have a lot of other girls who can get in the lane and create. If teams don’t suck in, we’re going to be able to finish, and if they do, then we can kick out for a 3."

Over at Trinity Lutheran, they also are playing impressive defense and are holding teams to less than 38 points a game on average. They also currently boast a top-20 offensive average (62.08 ppg) and top-20 average margin of victory (24.17 ppg). 

Currently, the Cougars are ranked second in Class A — their highest ranking ever — but they’re not really paying attention to it.

With so many of their players coming off a volleyball season in which they were the tops in the class, they’re used to seeing a little No. 1 or No. 2 next to their name in the polls.

"They’re accustomed to it," Cougar coach Mike Lang said. "It’s still a big deal, but with this group, it’s the next game up. We do know, however, having that ranking brings expectations from other teams."

Getting a team’s best punch every night is something the Cougars have come to expect this season. Whether it’s from sectional foe Edinburgh or county rival Crothersville, the Cougars know they need to be on their A-game no matter the opponent. 

What the Cougars also have in addition to their defense are a couple of consistent 20-point scorers in freshman Bailey Tabeling and junior Sydney Jaynes.

Jaynes is on the cusp of scoring 1,000 points for her career and could break the threshold during the holiday tournament. 

Lang struggles to point to their defense or their sensational scorers as the reasons behind their success. For him, the biggest catalyst for their near-unblemished start is how well his team plays together.

"We have great team continuity," he said. "We have everybody on the same page, we all have the same goals and we may have some 20-point scorers, but there is no individualism out here." 

The Braves and Cougars get started today at the Toby Yoho Classic at 1 p.m. They’ll play their second game at 4:30 p.m. 

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