With less than a minute to go and the Brownstown Central girls basketball team clinging to a five point lead, junior Katherine Benter wanted the ball.
She practically begged for it from Zoe Fountain during an inbound play, got what she wanted and was immediately fouled and went to the free-throw line.
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Benter was perfect from the line as part of a 18-for-23 free-throw shooting effort for the Braves, delivering a 59-52 win over the Brown County Eagles and a spot in the sectional semifinals.
The Braves were 9 of 11 from the free-throw line in the final eight minutes, hitting six in a row to distance themselves from the surging Eagles and ice the game away.
Brownstown Central coach Brandon Allman praised his girls’ stress-free approach at the line in an otherwise stressful environment.
“This might have been one of our better performances [at the free-throw line] for the season,” Allman said. “Come tournament time, you’ve got to be able to make pressure free throws and we had girls that did that tonight.”
Benter led the Braves with 25 points — 12 of those coming from the free-throw line — and her demand and care for the basketball late in the game helped seal the win.
Allman explained Benter’s confidence in pressure-packed situations is a product of all the hardwork she puts in during the offseason. He also relented he wants her, and the rest of the Braves, to have that same sort of confidence from the tip.
They had it early on, jumping out an early lead before the Eagles stormed back and hit a halfcourt shot at the halftime buzzer. The Braves didn’t flinch at the start of the second half, but lost some of their nerve midway through the third quarter.
Leading 46-33 with three minutes to go in the stanza, the Braves went cold from the field and the Eagles slowly started to muscle their way back into the contest.
Brown County finished the third stanza on a 6-0 run and kept it going in the fourth to cut the Brave lead to three before Ashley Schroer responded with a wide-open layup.
“They were really physical with us and we didn’t respond very well,” Allman explained of the Braves’ third-quarter collapse. “We turned the ball over 18 times, which might be a season high for us and is really uncharacteristic for us.”
Though they fumbled for a bit, once the Braves settled back in, they looked in control until the finish.
In addition to Benter, the Braves were paced by Schroer’s 16 and Halle Hehman’s eight. Zoe Fountain added six, and Avery Koch and Maddy Hackman each chipped in two.
The Braves outrebounded Brown County 25-19 and had a 16-8 advantage after the first half.
Brownstown Central will be back in action on Friday for the sectional semifinal against either Edgewood or Northview at 7:30 p.m.
Both teams sport tremendous length, which has given the Braves problems this season, specifically in a loss to Madison.
Allman joked that you can’t coach length, but is confident his girls can rise to the challenge as they did a week ago against North Harrison, who boasts multiple 6-foot players, for the Mid-Southern Conference title.