Local athletes handling pressure in the postseason


Pressure. What pressure?

Late in Saturday night’s regional championship game between Brownstown Central and Heritage Christian, the Braves started to get tight.

“We started to shrink,” Brownstown Central coach Brandon Allman said after the game.

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Yet, the contest never really felt in doubt no matter how much the Eagles chipped away at the deficit.

There were nerves for sure, as evident of a potential missed double-dribble call that made Allman just about jump out of his skin, and admits he needs to put himself into some less-stressful situations.

You wouldn’t have noticed any pressure from the players on the court.

“It was a little stressful and people were getting a little flustered,” junior guard Katherine Benter said, “but we’ve been in these situations before and it was a lot easier than it has been in the past.”

The Braves have been in their fair share of close games this season, though you may not have noticed that by the final scores of their last four games. In the postseason alone, four of their five games have been decided by double digits. Only their sectional opener against Brown county was won by a single-digit advantage.

Heritage Christian’s desperation to keep their season alive made handling the basketball especially tough for the Braves in the waning minutes.

Full-court pressure coupled with two players on a ball handler as soon as they caught it resulted in two 10-second violations in the fourth quarter. The harassment also resulted in twice as many second-half turnovers (six) than occurred in the opening 16 minutes.

During Brownstown Central timeouts, Allman’s message was the same.

“I kept telling our girls to be strong with the basketball,” he said. “If we’re strong with it and do ball fakes, they’re going to have to foul us or we’ll get some layups.”

His prophecy came true just a few minutes later.

The Braves held firm, drew fouls and went to the line with all the confidence of a team that knew they had the game in the bag if they just executed.

In the final two minutes of the game, BC shot 10 free throws. They made all but one.

“We just had ice water in our veins,” Allman continued. “Those girls at the free-throw line — free-throw shooting hasn’t always been our strength — they knocked them down today when it mattered.”

Brownstown Central was 14-for-18 from the line against the Eagles.

Over at West Washington High School, keeping hold of the ball in pressure situations is what ultimately did in the Trinity Lutheran Cougars in their regional semifinal game.

According to Trinity Lutheran coach Mike Lang, the moment may have gotten too big for his kids.

Tied up at 38 early in the fourth quarter after a Sydney Jaynes bucket, the Cougars came up empty in their next six possessions.

“I think the environment got to the kids a little bit, and we couldn’t hang onto the ball,” Lang said to the Tribune’s Arv Koontz.

The loss doesn’t diminish the great season the Cougars had, but Lang spoke to the disappointment of bowing out of the tournament earlier than they’d hoped.

The environment gets tougher for the Braves this weekend, heading to the Jeffersonville semistate where they’ll face the Class 3A No. 1 Salem Lions.

The Braves defeated Salem, 54-50, in what was their closest win of the season besides their season opener against Paoli.

Undoubtedly, the Lions are going to be hungry to avenge their lone Mid-Southern Conference loss of the season and secure their spot to Indianapolis.

Keeping a hold of the basketball, and of their nerves, is going to be even more important this Saturday for the Braves.

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