Linton's Walters makes a good defense great

Mar. 15—In postseason high school basketball, upsets can happen at any time; a team having a bad shooting night is particularly vulnerable.

Although Linton's No. 1-ranked Miners defied that premise last Saturday at the Class 2A Southridge Regional against North Decatur.

Bad shooting? The Miners went to the halftime locker room blazing away at 27% from the field — 0 for 13 for everyone except Joey Hart and Paul Oliver.

Upset possibility?

"I knew we were good," said Logan Webb, who had seven of the misses, and he was right. Linton led 22-16, on its way to a 62-33 win, and never appeared threatened despite the six-point margin.

Explanation? "I think we're a great defensive team," said senior Wrigley Franklin, "when we want to be."

"People are comparing [our defense] to how well our offense is doing," Webb said this week. "I think we have it in us [to be a great defensive team]."

"We have a lot of athletes," said Hart. "Our 1-3-1 [zone] is what we use the most often. It causes a lot of problems for people."

There's also one factor in the Linton defense that's yet to be mentioned: Braden Walters.

There might be some discussion among the Miners about who their second-best defender is. Webb is adamant that it's not him, and Hart jokingly described his defensive philosophy as "make it somebody else's fault."

But the discussion about the 6-foot-5 Walters is not whether he is the best Miner defender — there's no question about that, and the Linton student section has been known to hold up numbers tracking his deflections in the course of a game — but whether he's the best in the state.

Nobody in Linton picks anybody else.

"Braden may very well be the best defender in the state," coach Joey Hart — currently suspended for the rest of the tournament — said. "He can guard all five positions with tremendous length, quickness and intelligence."

"I know Braden is our best defender. You can put that guy anyplace," said Webb. "He's definitely the best in the state. The numbers [tracked by the student fans] show what kind of impact he has."

"He's the best player who's guarded me," said Hart, who has played his summer AAU seasons on the same team with Webb and Walters. "Him guarding me in practice helps his defense and helps my offense."

"I feel like I'm the leader of the defense," said Walters, who can be employed anywhere in a zone (but often at the point of the 1-3-1) as well as being able to go man-to-man against any opponent. "I don't feel like there's anybody I can't guard. I play against one of the best [Hart] every day."

It's been quite a week for the Miners, who are without their head coach for the second stretch of this season. Assistant coach Noah Hawkins takes over again — and was 6-0 the first time he filled in, including four straight close games against ranked teams St. Joseph-Ogden (Ill.), Evansville Christian, Bloomfield and North Daviess — and the Miners still have their defense to fall back on.

And if the Linton starters aren't guarding well enough, Franklin gets the call off the bench.

"I just love to play defense," the rugged senior — recently named to the North-South All-Star football game — said this week. "Screen, pass, dive on loose balls — I enjoy playing defense and messing with the other team."

"Our offense feeds off our defense at times," the younger Hart said, "and as the game goes on, our defense gets more intense, more active."

"Sometimes we don't talk [on defense] as much as we should," Webb admitted, "but we have leaders on this team who can come together and fix that before it becomes a problem."

"We still have room for improvement," said Walters after Saturday night's defensive clinic, "but if we keep this up, we should be fine."