Miners headed back to state finals

Mar. 19—Brownstown Central is a high school basketball team that likes to be explosive.

Linton is a high school basketball team that can also erupt, although it usually is efficient and methodical.

When the two collided Saturday night for the championship game of the Class 2A Southport Semistate, it was the Miners' style that prevailed, with a slow, inexorable 21-2 run that extended more than a quarter leading to a 64-56 win and an appointment next Saturday at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.

The 21-point lead that run produced was trimmed to two with a minute to play, but the Miners calmly scored the game's last six points to put it away.

Was he concerned about the shrinking lead, coach Noah Hawkins was asked? "I got concerned as soon as our [semifinal] game ended this morning," he quipped after the game.

"We still played tremendous defense," said Braden Walters when asked about the Braves' late rally, "and we got the ball to our shot-makers. We played a great game."

Linton's defense showed up in Saturday night's stats in the field-goal-percentage area. Brownstown needed 58 shots to score 56 points, and its junior star Jack Benter scored a game-high 29 points but had to launch 30 shots to get them. In the second and third quarters that included that slow and steady Linton run, the Braves were 4 for 23, 2 for 16 from 3-point range.

Brownstown launched 21 more 3-point shots in the fourth quarter and hit a few of them, while forcing an uncharacteristic nine turnovers with their pressing defense. The lead that was 43-22 after the run ended and 47-28 early in the fourth quarter — yes, Brownstown had as many points in the fourth quarter as it scored in the first three — was down to 58-56 after a 3-pointer by Chace Coomer.

But Walters got through the Brownstown press and got the ball to Joey Hart for a driving layup and three-point play — Walters had eight assists for the game, a whopping 21 for the day — and Wrigley Franklin hit two free throws (his only shots in the game) to clinch things.

Even with the game in hand there was a dangerous moment, when Linton's Logan Webb leaped to try to block a pass by a Brownstown reserve with about 10 seconds left and landed hard on his back — "I'm not gonna stop playing until the horn sounds," he said afterward — but the Miners were on their way to Indianapolis.

"It's everything I've wanted since fifth grade," Webb said. "It's unreal that I get to [play for a state championship] next weekend."

"It feels great," Walters agreed. "We've been trying to do this since my freshman year . . . tonight we played as a team, everybody together."

Webb had 15 points in the first quarter, but it was a 3-pointer by Hart that gave the Miners the lead for good at 8-5. Brownstown Central wasn't about to go away, however.

When Hart fouled Coomer on a 3-point attempt early in the second quarter, Coomer hit all three to cut the lead to 22-20 — and it was Hart's second foul. After a basket by Hart made it a four-point game, Hawkins began using offense/defense substitutions the rest of the second quarter to keep his star from getting in further foul trouble, and other Miners picked up the slack.

By halftime it was 34-20 — Webb adding five more points, Walters getting a tipin and Paul Oliver sinking a 3-pointer — and the Linton defense held the Braves scoreless for almost six minutes of the third quarter while Hart added five points and Webb four.

Hawkins admitted to considering pulling the Miners out of their 1-3-1 zone defense in the fourth quarter, when the Braves began finding openings to shoot from behind the arc, but resisted the impulse. "We had to contest their shots without fouling," he said after the game, "and we did just enough."

Webb cooled off slightly in the second half but still led the Miners with 28 points while Hart had 23, 13 in the fourth quarter. As poignant a moment as you'll find in any high school basketball game came afterward, a long and tearful hug between Hart and his father, who won't get to coach the championship game.

"It's been crazy," the younger Hart said. "There's only one goal [remaining]."

BROWNSTOWN CENTRAL (56) — Benter 8-30 7-8 29, Coomer 4-9 3-3 14, Hall 3-4 0-0 6, Hehman 2-11 0-0 6, Arthur 0-1 0-0 0, Darlage 0-1 0-0 0, Sheffer 0-1 1-2 1, Hutcheson 0-0 0-0 0, Stahl 0-0 0-0 0, Gwin 0-0 0-0 0, Wheeler 0-1 0-0 0, Covert 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 17-58 FG, 11-13 FT, 56 TP.

LINTON (64) — Hart 6-8 10-12 23, Oliver 2-6 2-3 7, Frady 1-5 0-0 2, Webb 11-23 1-3 28, Walters 1-2 0-2 2, Franklin 0-0 2-2 2, Gennicks 0-0 0-0 0, Walker 0-0 0-0 0, Miller 0-0 0-0 0, Feltner 0-0 0-0 0, Fields 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-44 FG, 15-22 FT, 64 TP.

Brownstown Central 14 6 8 28 — 56

Linton 18 16 9 21 — 64

3-point shooting — BC 11-45 (Benter 6-23, Coomer 3-8, Hehman 2-11, Hall 0-1, Sheffer 0-1, Wheeler 0-1), Linton 7-19 (Webb 5-13, Hart 1-2, Oliver 1-3, Frady 0-1). Total fouls — BC 15, Linton 12. Fouled out — Hehman. Turnovers — BC 12, Linton 14. Rebounds — BC 34 (Benter 7, Darlage 7), Linton 39 (Walters 8, Hart 7, Webb 7, Oliver 4, Frady 4, Franklin 3, Feltner, Team 5). Assists — BC 11 (Hehman 3), Linton 13 (Walters 8, Oliver 3, Webb, Franklin). Steals — BC 8 (Hall 2, Darlage 2), Linton 9 (Webb 4, Oliver 3, Walters, Franklin). Blocks — BC 2 (Hall, Arthur), Linton 2 (Webb, Walters).

Next — Linton (29-1) plays Fort Wayne Blackhawk next Saturday in the Class 2A state championship game in Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Brownstown Central finished 24-5.