Clarksville left some keys at home for its Mid-Southern Conference basketball showdown at Brownstown on Monday.
A sick head coach, a key scorer with a sick jump shot and Browntown’s devastating start were too much to overcome. Brett McCory scored 23 points and ignited the difference-making spurt as the Class-3A No. 5 Braves conquered the Generals 67-59 and clinched a share of the league title.
Chaz Schneider scored 18 points and Skylar Thompson added 15 as Brownstown (16-1, 8-0) earned a piece of the 15th conference crown in school history. 2-A No. 6 Clarksville (12-4, 6-1) will need unexpected help from Eastern Pekin (Brownstown’s remaining league test) to steal a share for the second straight year.
With head coach Jason Connell bedridden with the flu, with senior forward Aidan McEwen hitting only one of his first eight shots and with Brownstown bolting in front with a 17-2 run in the first quarter, the Generals could not recover.
“It was tough situation for the kids,” Clarksville assistant coach Brian McEwen said. “Given what they were dealt, they battled pretty well in a tough place to play. It was tough for them to adjust to a different person over there trying to lead.”
The toughest part was giving the Braves a head start. McCory scored 13 first-quarter points as the Braves blasted to a 22-7 lead. Coming back, in a gym where the Braves have now won 20 straight, was a tremendous task.
Clarksville, with Calvin McEwen scoring 17 points, nearly pulled it off, scrambling within 54-50 with 3:35 left. But Brownstown burned off over 90 seconds before McCory powered in a basket from the post, and Clarksville followed with back-to-back turnovers. The comeback died there.
“We told our guys we wanted a touch inside,” Brownstown coach David Benter said of the momentum-stopping possession. “You want nothing but a great shot. Our guys got the ball right where we wanted.”
Clarksville opened with a 5-2 lead, then went silent with five turnovers and eight missed shots over the next six minutes. The Generals never got back in front.
“It was big edge for us,” McCory said. “We knew we had to get off to a good start.”
Clarksville answered in spurts. Calvin McEwen hit two jumpers from the lane and Aidan rebounded his own miss to cut Brownstown’s lead to 31-24 at the half.
A Clarksville spurt cut the deficit to four as the Generals opened the fourth quarter by hitting five straight shots. But the McCory basket was followed by nine free throws in the final minute as the Braves pulled away.
“We have three goals — get better as a team, win the conference and win the sectional,” McCory said. “We have two of them done.”