Despite the final tally on the cherry red scoreboard, both the Brownstown Central and Trinity Lutheran boys basketball coaches described Saturday night’s game the same way.
The Braves held home court, defeating the Cougars 67-52 at Brownstown Central High School.
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“I think one good thing I saw was that we didn’t back down,” Cougars coach Aaron Rudzinski said. “We got down and could have packed it in, but our guys continued to battle throughout.”
Almost every time the Braves scored, the Cougars answered in the first quarter.
From 3:41 to 2:03, the teams went back and forth scoring on every possession.
Down 16-10, with five seconds on the clock, Cougars senior Jacob Christopher drilled a 3-pointer to bring his team back within one possession.
Five players from each team scored in the opening eight minutes.
The Braves opened the second quarter on a 10-2 run behind five points from senior Cole Borden.
Jacob Christopher ended the Cougars’ small drought with two made free throws at the 3:18 mark. However, the Braves then took a 30-17 lead off baskets from Borden and Cam Shoemaker.
“We started mixing up our defense, we went to the half-court trap a little bit and got them out of rhythm,” Braves coach Dave Benter said. “They seemed to get really comfortable in the first quarter.”
At halftime, the Braves led 30-19.
“We were really frustrated with our effort last night (versus Silver Creek),” Benter said. “I thought Cole (Borden) gave us a huge boost, he had some great offensive rebounds and got some extra possessions. The only negatives in the first half where we missed a couple block-outs and gave up some turnovers in the back court that they converted into points.”
Baskets from 3-point land from Keegan Rebber and Toby VanLiew helped the Cougars stay in the game early in the third quarter as they trailed the Braves 36-25 with six minutes left.
The Braves made three 3-pointers in the final stretch of the third quarter and added an old-fashioned 3-point play to lead 49-33 headed into the final period.
A small 7-0 run by the Cougars brought the game to 58-42, in favor of the Braves, with 3:30 remaining in the game.
However, the deficit was too large, and the No. 2 Braves bounced back from Friday night’s loss to third-ranked Silver Creek.
“I thought we came out in the second half and moved the basketball really well to make shots,” Benter said. “We just had trouble stopping them. They made some tough shots. Our kids battled.”
Four Braves finished in double-digits on the night. Shoemaker led the Braves with 17 points, Zach McCory netted 16, and Borden and Jacoby Shade each scored 13.
“We have a lot of guys that can score,” Benter said. “We talk about trusting teammates and making the extra passes, and we did that in the second half. We’ve got a lot of guys who have (double-digit) scoring kinds of nights. We were really unselfish late.”
VanLiew led the Cougars with 15 points, and Daniel Horton added 10.
At the end of the night, the Braves finished with a 37-24 rebound advantage. Perhaps the most telling stat, however, was the offensive rebounds: Brownstown had 17 to Trinity’s eight boards.
“The thing that disturbed me the most was the offensive rebounds we gave up,” Rudzinski said. “It seemed like that got a lot of opportunities off missed shots. It’s something we definitely need to clean up.”
Despite the loss, Rudzinski saw improvements in his team.
“Our guys are playing with more confidence,” he said. “A year ago when we were out here, I think we played a little scared. This year they came out and played hard and didn’t worry about that. It’s about battling and having faith in what we do.”
“It’s about battling and having faith in what we do.”