By Justin Whitaker
BROWNSBURG — The Brownsburg Bulldogs knocked the Ben Davis Giant monkey off its back last Friday.
After three straight seasons of being eliminated by Ben Davis in the postseason, Brownsburg got its sectional redemption with a 40-39 victory.
“I thought we played as hard as we have played all year,” Ben Davis coach Joe Lentz said. “We showed a lot of heart and we put the challenge to them to be tougher than Brownsburg. Bottom line, I don’t know if we were any tougher, but they weren’t any tougher than us either. They just happened to get an extra point on the board.”
Bulldogs senior Stephanie Mavunga connected on two go-ahead free throws with 22.8 seconds remaining to give Brownsburg the one-point advantage.
“This is great,” Brownsburg coach Amy Brauman said. “The last few years we’ve gotten knocked out by Ben Davis and as I explained to the girls, you’re not just winning the game for this team, you’re winning this game for the past three teams that haven’t been able to beat them.”
The Giants jumped up eight in the third quarter but was unable to hold onto the advantage.
The Bulldogs had three fouls to give after the Mavunga free throws and Brauman strategically used them to help burn time on the ensuing Ben Davis inbounds plays.
With 7.2 seconds remaining the Giants inbounded the ball and sophomore Kenisha Jones drove left just outside of the lane. Bulldogs senior Margaret Oles stayed on Jones’ hip the entire way and was able to knock the ball loose when Jones attempted a shot.
“I tried to stay with her as best as I could without fouling,” Oles said. “I had my hands up, stayed with her, had my body on her but tried not to foul.”
“They took away our initial pass and our second option was to drive in the middle and hopefully come to a stop and be able to dish to somebody or at least get off a shot,” Lentz said.
Brownsburg’s Lindsey Low grabbed the loose ball and was fouled with 0.8 seconds remaining. She missed the free throw, but it was not enough time for Ben Davis to do anything but give a desperation full-court heave.
Mavunga scored a game-high 21 points, but was limited and restricted by the Giants’ 6-foot-3 center Danielle Cuttino guarding her.
“I don’t know if I should say this, but she has a hard time with people her size,” Lentz said. “She’s not used to it and we’ve got people her size. We’ve got people who can body her up.”
Brownsburg led 19-18 after a tightly-contested first half. Ben Davis started the third quarter with a purpose. The Giants went on a 10-2 to take the eight-point lead, the largest lead of the game by either team.
“Defense keyed it,” Lentz said. “We got a couple steals, we converted, we got some rebounds and we stopped them at the other end.”
Bulldogs senior Kayle Comer ended the run when she connected on the only Brownsburg 3-pointer of the night with 2:06 remaining in the third.
“That was big, it always gets us going when she hits a three,” Brauman said. “It always fires us up a little bit. They were playing really good defense and we couldn’t get her open.”
Mavunga scored a layup as time expired in the third quarter to cut the deficit to 31-27.
With 2:45 remaining in the game, Mavunga, the North Carolina recruit, tied the score at 37-37 with an open layup.
Giants freshman Taylor McDaniel made a clutch jumper to break the tie with 1:58 left in the game.
Comer was fouled with a minute remaining and connected on 1 of 2 free throws to give her 12 points on the evening and bring the Bulldogs within a point.
Oles’ play proved true to the claim in basketball that you do not have to score to make an impact on the game.
Despite not scoring a point and facing a press almost the entire game, the 5-foot-4 point guard made her presence known throughout the contest.
She took an offensive foul from Cuttino after Comer hit her 3-pointer in the third quarter to help swing momentum to Brownsburg. Also, Oles, along with Low, helped gain a jumpball from the Giants’ 6-foot senior Amber Jones with under 45 seconds remaining.
That possession swing led to Mavunga’s game-winning free throws.
“Margaret played awesome,” Brauman said. “She provides a calmness for us and so it’s almost like we have to have her on the court all the time.”