By Justin Whitaker
INDIANAPOLIS — Each basketball game has it’s own moment, somewhere in between four quarters or the two halves, where one team emerges as the victor.
In Wednesday’s boys’ sectional opening contest between Brownsburg and Decatur Central, it was not until the buzzer sounded and the scoreboard struck zero that the winner was decided.
After 18 lead changes and six ties, the Bulldogs’ last-second opportunities fell just short and the Hawks won 55-53.
“The hardest part about it is not that we lost,” Brownsburg coach Ronald Nored said. “You win and lose basketball games, it’s always going to happen. But this group of guys came together like nothing before. And that’s the hard part, that we don’t get to compete together as a group again.”
Brownsburg called a timeout and trailed by two with just under eight seconds to go after Decatur Central’s Anthony Johnson scored off a fastbreak layup.
The Bulldogs went the length of the court and had a shot to win as Trevor Lucas’ 3-pointer from the right wing was just a tad long.
In the scramble off the miss, Brownsburg had an opportunity to tie as time expired but the tip-in did not connect.
“We had a chance to win it or tie it there at the end,” Nored said. “I thought we got a great look at a shot and we got a great look on an offensive rebound, unfortunately neither one of them fell.”
The Decatur Central student section stormed the court as the Bulldogs season came to a tough and abrupt end.
“It’s tough because especially those guys think about a play here and there that they could have done better and I remember as a player thinking ‘What could I have done better?’ and they are going to think about that, ” Nored said. “As a 15, 16, 17, 18 year old that’s what you are going to think about. But I told them when you look back, you are going to think about the team that you played with. The loss and what you could have done, that’s going to go out of the window.”
In the final four minutes of the game, the score was tied thrice and the lead changed hands five times.
Brownsburg backup 6-7 sophomore center Dalton Vachon hit a jumper with no hesitation from the top of the key, just a step inside the three-point line to tie the score at 51-51 with 1:45 remaining.
As Hawks went to answer back, Vachon drew a charge on Adam Preda.
“We’ve always known he can shoot it, did I expect him to shoot it right then? No,” Nored said. “Did I look at my assistants and say, ‘Did that really go in?’ Yes… And then to go down and take a charge the next play. He came in focused and did his job really well.”
Senior Jimmy Lee hit a runner to give Decatur Central a two point lead with under a minute remaining. Bulldog sophomore K.J. Walton tied the score with 33 seconds remaining with two clutch free throws.
Lucas tipped a pass that resulted in Brownsburg’s possession, but the Bulldogs turned the ball over to set up the go-ahead fastbreak layup from Johnson.
Johnson scored a game-high 32 points as he scored a variety of ways — including off three 3-pointers and a pair of thunderous dunks.
“Between him and the rim, he’s hard to stop,” Nored said. “He had a great game, he’s a senior, he had all on the line and he came out and played.”
Brownsburg threw a multitude of different defenders at him in an attempt to slow the nearly 26 points per game scorer. The 6-foot-3 guard shot 11 of 25 and made all seven of his free throws.
“We just wanted to make it tough for him,” Nored said. “We wanted to have the team focus on him so to rotate over and help. He made plays and found guys when he needed to.”
Walton scored a team-high 20 points, Lucas added 11 and senior Gerald Harney added eight.
The Bulldogs ended the season 11-10, the first time over .500 since 2008-09. They also won seven straight games before entering the postseason.
Nored is proud of the way his seven seniors and team grew together. He doesn’t take credit for the improvement though, Nored believes that resided in the effort from the players.
“It takes awhile to get used to something new,” the first-year coach said. “They bought in and you just saw a team explode. It was just more fun to be a part of.”
Brownsburg graduates Harney, Zach Miller, Ian Good, Xavier Ringo, Jimmy Mescall, Martell Pope and Sir Golden from this squad.
The former Butler lockdown defender was thrilled with the bond that his team created together in his first season.
“To start my career with this group, I couldn’t have asked for a better group,” Nored said. “I couldn’t have asked more for a group of guys that will go to all ends to sacrifice for one another to make each other happy and have fun together. That’s what you want more than anything… I’m really thankful for the group of seniors we had. We are really going to miss them.”