After a three-year absence, Brownstown will be heading back to the Class 3A Washington Regional on Saturday.
The No. 3-ranked Braves (24-2) will have their hands full against No. 5 Evansville Bosse (18-7), a state finalist a year ago. Brownstown and Bosse will play at noon at the historic Hatchet House in Washington, preceded by Pike Central (14-11) and Greensburg (17-6). The final is set for 8 p.m.
“Once you get to the regional, it’s a four-game sprint,” Brownstown coach Dave Benter said.
After a rocky start, the Bulldogs seemed to be putting things together with seven straight wins. They are led by point guard Mekhi Lairy, who is averaging 21.5 points. Earlier this season, he eclipsed the 1,000-point mark and he’s on pace to become the school’s all-time leading scorer.
“They have it all,” Benter said of Bosse. “They’ve got everybody back. They’re athletic. They can shoot. They can rebound. They’re a really good offensive rebounding team.”
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Just like Bosse, the Braves are deep, led by three-sport star Carson Lambring, along with fellow sharpshooter Cody Waskom. Lambring hit 10 of 17 shots and scored 28 points in the 78-58 win over Salem in the Sectional 30 championship game Monday night.
“That was about as good as I’ve had a team play,” Benter said of the win over Salem. “We played well at both ends.”
Lambring and Waskom are two of the 10 seniors on an experienced and tight-knit Brownstown team, which only lost to Providence 57-55 and Floyd Central 61-56 in overtime.
“This group is so competitive,” Benter said. “They’ve been playing with each other since kindergarten. They will fight, tooth and nail.”
Benter won’t hesitate to go deep into his bench.
“We really do have five (positions) on the floor who shoot at any time,” he said.
Coaching his 19th season at Brownstown, Benter will be making his eighth trip to the regional.
“Every team is different,” said Benter, who has taken two teams to the Class 2A finals. “This team is unique because they are much looser than any team I’ve had. Most of it has to do with the personality of the kids. It’s really unusual to have 10 kids stick with it for four years.”
Class 2A Paoli Regional: Crawford County will be taking part in the regional for the first time in 15 years.
The Wolfpack (19-6) will face Forest Park (18-9) at Saturday at noon, preceded by South Knox (19-7) and South Ripley (15-11).
Crawford County is coached by Levi Carmichael, who guided Eastern Greene to its only regional title in 2001 as a player. In a one-game regional — a different format than currently employed by the IHSAA — Carmichael led the Thunderbirds to a 63-58 win at Crawford County and a spot in the semi-state.
“I’m not a guy who looks back on things a lot,” Carmichael said. “That was a terrific experience for our community at Eastern Greene. As a coach, I’m more into this moment and what we have to do.
“With what this community is yearning for, this will be pretty special as well.”