For the Tribune
Coming into their 81-46 win against Brown County Jan. 21, Brownstown Central — undefeated for the season — was heavily favored.
Still, the No. 2 Class 3A team was taking nothing for granted, said head coach Dave Benter.
“We did not take them lightly at all,” he said. “We knew that we had to come in and play well.
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“This is a tough place to play. They’ve got a good atmosphere and a good student section, and you know, they play hard. They’re well-coached,” Benter said.
Brown County did not manage to get closer than eight points from Brownstown after the first quarter. Though they were still within nine points of the Braves seconds before the half ended, a last-second tip-in by Braves senior Gavin Bane ended the half with a double-digit lead.
It wasn’t until the final minutes of the third quarter that the Braves finally pulled away from the Eagles by a comfortable distance.
“The big thing, first half, we didn’t shoot the ball real well, and I didn’t think we played as hard defenses as we needed to,” Benter said. “We couldn’t take care of the ball the first six minutes of the second half. As soon as we started taking care of the ball after that timeout, I thought we played really well the last 10 minutes of the game.”
By the end of the third quarter, Brownstown had a 20-point lead, and it only grew from there.
Yet, the Eagles fought hard to the end, and Brown County head coach Chuck Hutchins was proud of his team for how they kept fighting.
“One of the things we’re always trying to get out of these guys is a level of toughness,” Hutchins said. “Sometimes, when times get hard, we don’t always respond with a level of grit and toughness that I think a basketball team needs.
“And I think tonight, for the most part, we showed that we were tougher than we had been,” he said. “We knew we were playing a really good team. I think we showed a level of toughness that we need to continue to show.”
The Eagles had spent the week before preparing for the defensive pressure from Brownstown, Hutchins said. And though they didn’t take the win, the Eagles still had takeaways.
“We knew they were going to come and bring a lot of defensive pressure — full-court pressure — and cause a lot of turnovers,” he said. “And that’s really been an Achilles’ heel for us, turning it over too much.”
“I was pleased, and I think we saw some things tonight that are really gonna help us with our remaining games, things to build on,” he said.
The size of some of the Eagles players made keeping the pressure on difficult, Benter said, but it was a challenge they had anticipated.
“They could throw it up and relieve some of that pressure, and they’ve got two good 3-point shooters that made some shots whenever we gambled and missed and gave them some space,” he said. “They had a couple big guys and athletes inside. They were able to to get to the rim.
“So no, there’s nothing they did that surprised us, but we just have got to take better care of the ball than what we did the first six minutes of the first half,” Benter said.
Especially in the second half, Benter thought seniors Cody Waskom — with 30 points for the game — and Gavin Bane stepped up for the team.
As they remain undefeated, Benter still saw places for the Braves to improve if they are going to stay that way.
“We can’t take possessions off defensively,” he said. “I thought we did that a few times in the first half, but the second half, we kind of took care of that and were much better.”
Brownstown Central 81, Brown County 46
BT: 23 11 26 21 — 81
BC: 11 12 17 6 — 46
Brownstown (13-0, 4-0): Carson Lambring 15 points; Cameron Luedeman 4 points; Gavin Bane 14 points, 2-2 FT; Ty Maxie 8 points; Cody Schrader 1 point, 1-2 FT; Isaac Johnson 2 points; Cody Waskom 30 points, 6-7 FT; Kyle Kramer 3 points; Jordan Peters 4 points.
Brown Co. (2-10, 0-5 WIC): Jordan Samples 6 points; Eli Patterson 5 points; Isaiah Keefauver 10 points, 3-4 FT; David Norman 4 points; Ezra Scully 13 points, 3-3 FT; Hunter First 2 points; Josh Cochran 4 points, 0-1 FT; Korbin Heminger 2 points, 2-2 FT.
The Brownstown Central girls varsity team delivered a 61-47 homecoming loss to Brown County on Saturday.
Yet, with a 14-point spread at the end of the game, Braves head coach Karla Rieckers felt her team could have felt better.
“We’ve had a week off, and I thought that you could tell that we hadn’t played for a while,” Rieckers said. “I thought we were hesitant with getting some easy shots to fall that didn’t roll in for us, and I didn’t think our defense was at all what we needed it it be today — what it’s been in the past.”
It wasn’t until the final minutes of the second half that the Braves managed to hold a lead over the Eagles.
Early on, the Eagles took the lead several times, pushing back against the Braves’ onslaughts, and the first half had plenty of back and forth.
Eagles Senior Ryanne Smith captured a game-high four-point lead for the Eagles with a 3-point shot a little more than halfway through the first quarter, but Braves freshman Ashley Schroer responded in kind only seconds later, trimming that lead to 12-11, Eagles.
Braves junior Shelby Stuckwisch followed with another 3 about a minute later, taking the lead.
With 17 seconds left in the first quarter, Cassie Maxie and Tayler Garland had the Braves leading 18-12, but back-to-back plays by Eagles seniors Azhia Morgan and Smith brought the teams back within grappling distance, ending the quarter 18-16.
In the first minutes of the second quarter, Eagles junior Savannah Lovins and freshman Aubrey Hollander pushed the Eagles back into the lead, 20-18, starting a back and forth that would last until the final minutes of the half, as the teams battled for the upper hand.
But in those final minutes, Brownstown scored seven points to slip past a meager Eagles lead and establish a six-point gap the Eagles would never again overcome.
In the second half, Rieckers switched from a man to a zone defense. She said she was trying to make up for lack of movement from her team.
“We were standing and reaching instead of moving our feet, and we’ve got to be better at that,” she said.
Forcing that switch by the Braves was a good moment for the Eagles, said Brown County head coach Matt Roberts.
“Early in the season, presses and hard man-to-man pressure really bothered us, and we had turnover issues,” he said. “We’re learning from situations like that, down the stretch, how to handle different types of defenses, and we’ve become a much better defensive team ourselves.”
Regardless the early struggle to come out on top, Rieckers was proud of her team, she said.
“I think it’s just an overall group effort,” Rieckers said. “When you look at our team, I’ve got anybody can interchange for anybody. It’s not like I have to have five particular play.”
Looking at the game quarter by quarter, Roberts noted that the Braves consistently outscored Brown County in each quarter, gradually building their final 14-point lead.
Yet, the Eagles were also consistent, in a growing trend that Roberts finds encouraging.
The past two games have seen the most consistent four-quarter play the Eagles have had this season, he said. Given their struggles with what the girls have dubbed their “second-half curse,” Roberts feels encouraged.
“I feel good that maybe we’re starting pull some of that consistency together, and that’s what we’re going to need down the stretch,” Roberts said. “When we get into sectionals against some tough teams, we’re going to have to play at a high level consistently.”
Brownstown Central 61, Brown County 47
BT: 18 12 16 15 — 61
BC: 16 8 11 12 — 47
Brownstown (14-8, 4-4): Keeli Darlage 4 points; Shelby Stuckwisch 10 points; Kristen Stuckwisch 8 points, 4-6 FT; Tayler Garland 8 points, 1-5 FT; Payton Farmer 2 points; Ashley Schroer 11 points, 2-4 FT; Madison Klinge 9 points, 4-5 FT; Leah Stidam 7 points, 2-2 FT; Grace Jaynes 2 points.
Brown County (4-10, 1-5 WIC): Savannah Lovins 4 points, 0-1 FT; Vanessa Hoskins 1 point, 1-4 FT; Azhia Morgan 8 points, 2-4 FT; Aubrey Hollander 12 points, 0-4 FT; Allison Stogsdill 3 points; Dasia Wilkerson 2 points, 0-2 FT; Maddy Edds 12 points, 0-2 FT; Ryanne Smith 5 points.