Braves focused on tough task ahead at Southport Semistate

For the third time in his 25 years coaching the Braves, head coach Dave Benter will be leading the Brownstown Central boys basketball team into semistate this Saturday.

The previous two trips in 2003-04 and 2008-09, Benter has led his team to a semistate championship and into the state finals.

What stands in the Braves’ way for getting back to the state championship this year are three capable teams in Indianapolis Scecina, Parke Heritage and Linton-Stockton.

Brownstown will play the first game Saturday at Southport High School against Scecina. The Crusaders are 18-6 and on an eight-game winning streak.

“Extremely tough, hard-nosed, they are going to fight us for 32 minutes,” Benter said of the opponent. “They’ve got a lot of different pieces. They‘ve got four guys at all times that can shoot the three. They’ve got a 6’8” kid inside that has really developed. It’s impressive how much they’ve improved over the course of this season.”

Brownstown comes in at 23-4 and riding a 14-game winning streak. The Braves haven’t lost since Jan. 20, which was a 48-45 loss to Greensburg, and that was without Jack Benter, the team’s leading scorer.

The Braves have a sagarin rating of 88.82, which is 20th in the state and second in Class 2A. Scecina’s sagarin is 74.46, which is 107th overall and 16th in 2A.

Though on paper Brownstown seems to be the favorite, Benter doesn’t want his team to get comfortable, especially if they get an early lead.

“That has been kind of an Achilles heel,” he said. “Defensively, we’ve been so much better than we were in January. We’ve gotten real comfortable when we’ve gotten a lead or gone on a run, and we need to put 32 minutes together. We’re at a stretch now where we have to play 32 minutes every game or else our season is going to be over.”

Brownstown and Scecina have never met in the postseason, and the last meeting between these two teams came in the 1990-91 season in which the Braves were victorious.

Benter knows the Crusaders bring a physical defense, and much like Brownstown has seen with other teams this postseason, Scecina will be content slowing the pace down.

“We’re going to have to match their defense and physicality,” he said. “We have to be ready for long defensive possessions, as well.”

Senior Carson Darlage echoes the sentiment of his head coach.

“We’re preparing for everything,” Darlage said. “They might throw different defenses at us. They’re a physical team, so we have to match that. Defensively, we have to contain the ball and rebound the ball, be the more physical team.”

The Braves and Crusaders will play the first game at Southport at 10 a.m. The second game will feature Parke Heritage (19-9) and Linton-Stockton (27-1).

The Miners beat the Wolves 72-30 earlier this season on Dec. 26.

Linton-Stockton is the No. 1-ranked team in 2A, but the Miners will be without head coach Joey Hart during Saturday’s semistate after he was arrested for operating a vehicle while intoxicated Monday night. The team suspended Hart indefinitely.

This is the second alcohol-related arrest for Hart this season. He was arrested Dec. 31 in Clay County when he was passed out in the driver’s seat of his vehicle and charged with public intoxication. He returned to the program Jan. 28. The Miners went 7-0 during that stretch when Hart was out.

Many expect the Braves and Miners to meet in the semistate championship at 8 p.m. Saturday. Despite the expectations, Benter talked about the Braves sticking with the same mindset they’ve had since Day 1.

“We talk about all season that you never get too high or never get too low, and that’s a good motto to have,” he said. “Guys are going to hear a lot of stuff this week about how great they are, and you can’t think about that. We have a job to do. It doesn’t matter what our record is or who we’re playing. We have to approach it the same way we approached our first practice this year and our first game this year.”

The Braves aren’t just satisfied with the regional championship they captured last week.

“It was awesome, but we definitely want to keep going,” Darlage said. “We don’t want to stop until we make it to that final game.”