Overcoming adversity, succeeding despite a hardship, misfortune or calamity, is a favorite talking point for basketball coaches. Orleans is the poster team for that valued trait this postseason.
The Bulldogs lost scoring and rebounding leader Jarrett Jones midway through the season, scuffled through a six-game losing streak after his departure, then battled back to win their sectional and earn a rematch with No. 10 Borden in the Class A regional at Loogootee.
The Braves (20-3) will meet the Bulldogs (13-10) in the opening game at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, then No. 3 Barr-Reeve (23-1) will face Northeast Dubois (12-12) in the second. The final is set for 8 p.m.
Jones, a senior, suffered a concussion during a 73-23 victory at Medora on Dec. 14. He came back the next night to drill seven 3-pointers and score 26 points during the school’s first-ever victory at Bedford North Lawrence.
But something was amiss. Jones started to struggle with postconcussion syndrome, then was diagnosed with epilepsy triggered by the concussion. He has not played since the North Daviess Classic in late December.
“It left a big hole,” coach Tom Bradley said. “We had to adjust to that.”
The major tweaking took time. Orleans plodded through January’s tough schedule, a skid that included a 37-36 home loss to Borden. Roles changed, and the timetable for the involvement of younger players was fast-forwarded. The Bulldogs had to relearn how to win.
“It was just the fact we weren’t finishing games,” Bradley said.
The Bulldogs finally figured it out with a 57-48 victory over Loogootee, the defending Class A state champion. They have gotten more scoring from guards Cale Hall (14.8), Trey Bradley (14.0), the coach’s son, and point man Tommy Mitchell (9.0).
“Tom has adjusted nicely and has done a great job with the personnel he has on hand right now,” Borden coach Doc Nash said. “They’re very smart kids and play very well together. They’re really efficient. They’re a totally different team than when we played them. They’re playing very well right now.”
So is Borden. The Braves have won six in a row and 11 of 12, building crucial momentum as they chase their second regional title and look to avenge last year’s 68-48 loss to Orleans in the regional semifinals.
Borden’s balance, both a blessing and a curse, is the standout statistic. Jalen McCoy (12.0) and Michael Lynch (10.0) are the only double-figure scorers, but Garrett Vick, Cody Bachman and Billy Kirchgessner are close to that mark. It makes the Braves difficult to defend.
“You never know who is going to score for us,” Nash said. “But I wish I had a go-to guy to depend on sometimes. When we need a bucket, I don’t know whose number to call.”
Against Orleans on Jan. 25 he called Vick’s number. His shot from the lane with six seconds left was the difference.
Nash has spent his time scouring scouting reports, game recordings, notes, stories — anything he can get his hands on, looking for that one edge. The teams are almost identical.
“It’ll be who can settle their nerves the quickest and get in the rhythm of the game,” he said. “Toughness will win out.”