SEYMOUR – When Josh Brewer was in sixth grade, his basketball coach tagged him with the nickname “Sleepy Floyd.” Not necessarily because Brewer’s game matched the former Georgetown and NBA guard, but because his droopy eyelids made him look tired.
“I look sleepy,” Brewer said with a laugh. “That’s basically where that came from.”
What a perfect reaction, then, on the biggest shot of his life. After Brewer’s 3-pointer from the left wing swished through the net at the buzzer to give Ben Davis a 74-71 win over Castle on Saturday in the Class 4A semistate, the purple-clad fans, students and teammates around him erupted.
Brewer? The senior stood there, frozen, until he was finally swept away in a sea of purple on the court at Lloyd E. Scott Gymnasium. With the shot, Ben Davis (22-5) clinched a spot in next week’s state finals for the first time since the 1996 team won the second of back-to-back state championships.
“I didn’t know what to do, honestly,” Brewer said. “All the emotion, the crowd screaming, the clock going off … I just didn’t know what to do in the moment. I was just standing there.”
Brewer’s heroics capped a furious final minute, sending Mark James, a veteran of 35 coaching seasons, into the state finals for the first time. Eighth-ranked Castle (24-4) trailed by eight points with a little more than a minute left, but rallied to tie it 71-71 when 6-11 senior standout Jack Nunge scored after a turnover with 20 seconds left.
Just moments earlier, James had asked assistant Ben Rhoades about the possibility of calling timeout if Castle tied the score. “Don’t worry, they won’t tie it,” Rhoades said.
James chose to let the Giants play it out. Aaron Henry, the 6-5 junior standout, started to drive the lane. But Nunge was there, along with guard Alex Hemenway. As Castle’s Jordan Baker slid over to help, Henry kicked it out to Brewer on the left wing. Baker ran out to get a hand in Brewer’s face just as he released the ball.
“I immediately saw three people in the gap,” Henry said. “I have so much faith in Josh. I know he always looks tired but he didn’t look tired on that 3, I know that. In that situation, I’m going to pass to him every time.”
James said he didn’t want to use the timeout in that situation, even though he had one.
“We had Aaron with the ball and we were going to run flat,” James said. “He’s going to get by his man and pitch to somebody. We had good 3-point shooters on the floor. It didn’t have to be a 3 but that’s what it ended up being. They made me look like a good coach today.”
Brewer scored nine of his team-high 19 points in the fourth quarter to lead a balanced effort. Senior Jalen Newsom was 6-for-9 from the 3-point line for 18 points and Henry added 17. The Giants, shooting 40.2 percent from the 3-point line coming into the game, were a scorching 12-for-20 from the arc on Saturday.
Nunge was a force all afternoon for Castle, finishing with 32 points and 13 rebounds. The Iowa recruit scored 14 points in the fourth quarter and was the driving force in the comeback. Hemenway, a sophomore standout, added 21 points for the Knights, who were bidding for their first state finals appearance.
“From the four-minute point to the end, I thought it was the greatest show of a heart by a team to tie it up,” Castle coach Brian Gibson said. “They made a tough shot. They made a bunch of tough shots. Hats off to Ben Davis. It took one of the best teams in the state to shoot a ridiculous percentage from 3 to beat us. They did it. I’m very impressed with their coach and their game plan.”
There’s another game to win for the Giants. But this one won’t soon be forgotten.
“I was in disbelief,” Brewer said. “I didn’t believe it went in. Coach James always said the team that can’t be beaten won’t be beaten. We weren’t going to be beaten. That’s all there was to it.”
As the Ben Davis bus rolled out of Seymour on Saturday, one thing was certain: Brewer had earned a good night’s sleep.
Call Star reporter Kyle Neddenriep at (317) 444-6649.
BEN DAVIS 74, CASTLE 71
Castle 20 14 16 21 — 71
Ben Davis 19 12 19 24 — 74
Castle (24-4) — Hemenway 8 0-0 21, Nunge 12 6-6 32, Mills 2 2-4 7, Wilkinson 0 0-0 0, Eades 3 4-4 11. Totals: 25 12-14 71.
Ben Davis (22-5) — Harper 2 5-8 10, Finch 0 0-0 0, Henry 7 3-7, Brewer 8 0-0 19, Newsom 6 0-0 18, Turner 3 2-2 10, Windham 0 0-1 0. Totals: 26 10-18 74.
3-point goals: Castle 9 (Hemenway 5, Nunge 2, Mills, Eades), Ben Davis 12 (Newsom 6, Brewer 3, Turner 2, Harper).