In case you haven’t taken notice, the Brownstown Central boys basketball team is matching up with the best teams in the state throughout the first third of the 2015-16 season.
After starting the season 5-0, the Braves made a statement heard around the state by capturing its second Graber Post Buildings Classic title in two years.
Graber Post wasn’t just another holiday tournament — there were four unbeaten teams, with two ranked No. 1 in their class, in the field.
Heading to the semifinals game against then-undefeated Class 2A No. 1 Barr-Reeve, Braves coach Dave Benter knew it was going to be a tough bout.
Barr-Reeve, who had won the Class A state championship in 2014, hadn’t lost a game in more than a year. They were on a 27-game winning streak, with their last loss dating back to a Dec. 26, 2014, to Orleans at the Post Graber tourney.
The gym at North Daviess High School was packed tighter than a carry-on travel bag and felt like a playoffs atmosphere.
In all honesty, that game against Barr-Reeve was the most exciting I’ve attended in my short time covering Jackson County.
A classic back-and-forth battle, coming down to one shot — a 3-pointer by Jacoby Shade off a kick-out from Zach McCory for the go-ahead basket with seconds on the clock.
On my hour and a half drive back to Seymour, I had plenty of time to replay the game in my head.
What stuck out the most were how the kids on the floor for Brownstown responded to adversity, and the adjustments they made out of halftime.
In the opening 16 minutes, every time Brownstown had a lead, it seemed that Barr-Reeve answered with a 3-pointer.
When Brownstown came out of the locker room at halftime, they put together one of their best quarters of the year — heeding the advice of their coach, trusting the changes and applying them to real-time.
It was the same story in the championship game against Pike Central, who had defeated Class 3A No. 1 Park Tudor in earlier tournament play.
Up 40-39 at halftime, Benter adjusted the Braves’ defense to stop Pike’s transition offense.
The result: Brownstown outscored Pike 22-7 in the third quarter to take a big enough lead to secure the eventual win.
The Braves have relied on their core group of seniors to manage games.
Cam Shoemaker controls the post, Jacoby Shade’s the dead-eye shooter, Zach McCory is the floor general with the all-around game and Matthew Nierman runs the point and can hit the deep ball — whether it be in the first or second scoring unit.
One of the players that has impressed the most thus far is junior Cody Waskom.
Waskom earned a starting role at the tournament, and scored 15 points against South Knox and Barr-Reeve while tallying 16 versus Pike Central.
A tall, lanky stretch-forward, Waskom’s biggest improvement from last season is by far his defense, as he has always been a scorer.
With 0.8 seconds on the clock against Barr-Reeve, up by one, Waskom helped make a Vikings 3-pointer go wayward by slipping a screen and getting his hands up on the wing.
I would guess that’s why Waskom has earned more minutes in recent games.
If you play for Benter, you have to take pride in your defense and contest every shot down to the end — and if you don’t, you will ride the pine.
I think it’s the same case with junior Carson Lambring, who has also garnered starters’ minutes this season.
Lambring is one of those kids who doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. He takes care of the ball, plays strong defense and can drop 15-20 points when he’s hot from the floor.
That’s one of the beauties of this team.
The Braves have six — maybe even seven guys when Gavin Bane gets extended minutes — who can post 10-plus points a game.
Any given night, one of those lads can post big numbers.
However, some of the Brownstown’s biggest challenges still await.
On Saturday, the Class 3A No. 5 Braves will face No. 7 Tipton (8-0) in Knightstown.
It will be a night to remember, regardless of result, since Brownstown is playing in the gym where the movie “Hoosiers” was filmed.
The next game is, what I would guess, means the most to this team — No. 3 Silver Creek on Jan. 15.
Silver Creek, who plays in the same sectional as Brownstown, has been the Braves’ Achilles’ heel the past two seasons.
Last season, the Dragons bumped Brownstown in the first-round of the postseason and in 2014 Silver Creek downed the Braves in the sectional championship.
If Brownstown wants to get out of the Charlestown sectional in 2016, they will have to get past the Dragons.
The boys basketball season is a marathon, and Brownstown has done a fine job of staying towards the front of the pack.