With chants of “air ball” reigning down on him from the Brownsburg student section, Hamilton Southeastern freshman Zach Gunn said he looked right, then left. He saw an open look from behind the arc and took it.
Gunn, who had air balled a 3-pointer moments earlier in the second quarter, looked calm and poised as he quieted the crowd and increased his team’s lead.
“I was a little hesitant to shoot it, but it went in,” Gunn said.
The Royals used that same kind of poise throughout the game Friday night — especially after the Bulldogs mounted a furious third-quarter rally to draw the score close — as they pulled away late for a 62-40 Hoosier Crossroads Conference win in a battle of top-10 ranked teams.
Gunn, a 6-7 forward, finished with 19 points and nine rebounds to help pace HSE. Senior guard Tyler Jenkins scored a game-high 20 points, including two crucial back-to-back 3 pointers early in the fourth quarter to break the game open.
The win gives the Class 4A sixth-ranked Royals (11-2, 5-0 Hoosier Crossroads) a one-game lead atop the HCC. Third-ranked Brownsburg (9-2, 4-1) saw its nine-game win streak snapped.
“We knew they were going to go on a run at some point, and we had to be ready,” HSE coach Brian Satterfield said. “They cut it to six, but we took care of the ball in the fourth quarter and defended and won it.”
Down 38-21 with 6:30 to play in the third, the Bulldogs rallied to cut the lead to 42-36 at the end of the quarter. But Jenkins scored eight points in the first 3 minutes of the fourth as HSE used a 20-4 edge in the final frame to coast to the victory.
“I have to give them a lot of credit,” Brownsburg coach Steve Lynch said. “They were sure about what to do on offense, and they shot the ball well. We were good defensively at times, but at other times we let down. In a game of this magnitude, they had a little more discipline, and that’s on me.”
The Royals shot lights out from the field during stretches, including connecting on three straight 3s to open the game with a 9-0 lead.
They finished 20-of-42 (48 percent) from the field and 11-of-22 from 3-point range. The Bulldogs mustered just a 14-of-46 effort (30 percent) and were 0-for-9 on 3-pointers.
“Defensively, we were strong when we needed to be,” Gunn, an Indiana recruit, said. “We didn’t turn the ball over late.”
Brownsburg junior forward K.J. Walton led his team with 16 points and scored six straight points in the second quarter to keep the game close. Junior forward Jordache Mavunga added eight points and eight rebounds.
But the Bulldogs were playing catch-up from the opening minutes. They trailed 21-9 after the first quarter and 32-21 at halftime.
“We went through stretches where we turned the ball over and we didn’t shoot frees like we usually do, and that was a difference,” Lynch said. “But we’ll come back.”
Eric Davidson and Mason Hankins scored 12 and eight points, respectively, for the Royals. Brendan Burns had a game-high 14 rebounds.
“Jenkins made some big shots for us, but we had different guys at different points make big shots,” Satterfield said. “We got some open looks and were able to make some 3s.
“It was a big game from the conference standpoint,” he said. “We’re not in the driver’s seat. There are a lot of games left, but it feels good to get this game.”