Braves regional comeback falls short to Beech Grove

GREENCASTLE — Any time Beech Grove made a run and looked like it would pull away, the Brownstown Central boys basketball team would fight back and make it a game to the final buzzer.

The Hornets made three big surges on the Braves. The third came in the final minutes of the fourth quarter, but Brownstown pulled it to within three with 1:21 left to play. However, as head coach Dave Benter put it after the game, “time ran out on us,” as Brownstown suffered a 65-57 loss in Saturday’s regional semifinal.

The atmosphere in the McAnally Center at Greencastle High School was one that embodies high school basketball in Indiana. Both fan bases brought the energy, while the effort on the court was second to none.

Beech Grove blitzed Brownstown from the opening tip. The Hornets got off to a 7-0 start, overwhelming Brownstown with their athleticism and pressure.

The lead ballooned to 14-2 when Benter used his second timeout of the first quarter. At the end of one, Aidan Schroer had the lone basket for the Braves in the first eight minutes.

“We were just out of sorts early,” Benter said. “We got some good shots. We missed a couple shots at the rim. We missed some open threes. They were in a groove offensively, and before we knew it, it was 16-2.”

The Braves found their footing in the second quarter. Jack Benter settled in and saw some shots fall, and Brownstown’s defensive intensity picked up, while Schroer and Carson Darlage dominated the glass on both sides of the ball.

Brownstown went on a 13-2 run to cut Beech Grove’s lead to just three, 18-15.

“Shots started falling for us,” Benter said. “We got back in it.”

One negative was Schroer picked up a couple tough fouls, which hurt Brownstown.

“It killed us Aidan getting a couple cheap fouls,” Benter said. “He’s such a big presence inside. That really changed what we were able to do defensively and offensively. He was hurting them on the offensive glass, too.”

But Jack Benter kept doing Jack Benter things in the second frame. He drilled a half-court buzzer beater to send the game into halftime tied at 22.

Benter scored 14 points in the second quarter to lead Brownstown. It was a much-needed quarter for Benter after a shaky first eight minutes.

“Guys have been after him all year. We tried to instill in him at an early age that you can’t play frustrated,” coach Benter said. “He got off to a really bad start, but he really gathered himself once that first one went in. He started to get going that second quarter and really carried us the last three quarters.”

Anyone who follows basketball knows it’s a game of runs, and Brownstown’s big run to go into halftime was countered by Beech Grove opening the third quarter on a 7-0 run.

The Braves weathered that once again, and Carter Waskom started to find his rhythm attacking the paint while also knocking in one 3-pointer.

Benter drilled a 3-pointer of his own to tie the game at 36, but Grove’s Adrian Holland answered with a triple to put the Hornets up 39-36 heading into the fourth quarter. A common theme throughout the game was Beech Grove’s ability to shoot the three ball and free throws above its averages from the regular season.

“Beech Grove is a tough matchup for us, especially the way they shot the ball today,” Benter said.

But even when the Hornets surged out to a 50-41 lead with 3:50 to play and it looked like it was all she wrote, Brownstown clawed back.

Jack Benter knocked in a three where he also got fouled, and he converted the four-point play to draw Brownstown to within 56-53 with 1:21 to play.

Schroer and Darlage both fouled out in the fourth, and as Beech Grove continued to hit its free throws, the clock wasn’t in the Braves’ favor.

“We kept weathering the storm,” coach Benter said. “We almost did it a third time, but time ran out on us… Proud of our guys and our effort. Fantastic effort from our guys.”

Benter led all scorers with 36 points on the day, making six 3-pointers and going a perfect 8-of-8 from the charity stripe.

Waskom scored 15 points, while Schroer had four and Darlage two.

Anthony Ball led Beech Grove with 18 points, Jeremiah Tate had 12 and Damon Thompkins scored 11. Beech Grove went on to win regional by defeating Danville on Saturday night, and the Hornets will play at the Hatchet House this Saturday against Sullivan in the Washington Semistate.

For Brownstown, the Braves finished the season with an impressive 22-4 record. Saturday was the team’s first loss since Jan. 29.

Saturday marked the end of a great season and also the careers the seniors Waskom, Schroer, Trapper Dean and Levi Stahl.

“The chemistry on this team is as good as I’ve ever coached,” Benter said. “Seniors aren’t the only reason, but seniors can kill chemistry, and these guys never did that. No matter what their role was, these guys came to work every day, were competitive and hated to lose.”

Brownstown did a lot of good things this season, and Benter felt it was a special team, one that could still be playing but one that shouldn’t be disappointed about what it accomplished.

“It’s been a really fun year. We’re really happy with our season, you win a sectional, you win our conference, but this is a team that was capable of more,” he said. “There’s only a couple teams that I’ve coached over the last 10 years that I’ve truly believed had a legitimate chance to win a state championship, and I truly believe this was one of them. Once our guys get away from the hurt, they’re going to realize what kind of season we had.”