For the third time in five seasons, Blackhawk Christian are state champions.
The Braves overcame an 11-point halftime deficit to beat Linton-Stockton 52-45 in the Class 2A state title game Saturday afternoon at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
Kellen Pickett led the Braves with 19 points and nine rebounds, with Gage Sefton adding 16 and Jimmy Davidson scoring nine in the win.
Linton-Stockton shot just 4-of-27 in the second half.
Blackhawk Christian immediately saw the vaunted Linton-Stockton zone as the game started with Sefton having mixed results in the first two trips. The first time down he cut through the gaps to get to the rim and fouled. The second trip up the court, Sefton was stopped by a double team and traveled.
The focus for the Braves offensively early was clear: get out in transition and don’t let Linton-Stockton get comfortable in their zone. That meant that their defense had to be solid too in order to prevent the Miners from scoring and getting back. When they were able to, their zone set up all kinds of great trapping opportunities.
After Blackhawk Christian went up 6-5, Linton-Stockton pushed out a 7-0 run in the first quarter to take a 12-6 lead before Pickett’s three ended the Miner run. With 19 seconds left in the first, Davidson put up his first points of the quarter to end the first with a 14-11 Linton-Stockton lead.
Linton-Stockon’s zone also took away Josh Furst’s impact early. Despite a size advantage for Blackhawk Christian, whose smallest starter was 6-foot-3, the constant pressure of the zone prevented the Braves’ leading scorer from having success at the rim early. On the other end, the Miners’ leading scorer, Joey Hart, was strong in the first half. His and-one with 3:27 remaining in the second quarter pushed Linton-Stockton’s lead to double digits for the first time at 23-13.
But a 5-0 burst with a Sefton three and a Pickett putback bucket ended the run until Hart responded with back-to-back three-pointers to silence the Braves’ push as he hit for 18 points of his own in the first half. At the half, Linton-Stockton led 29-18 at the break.
Linton-Stockton stayed in control much of the third period as neither team could find much success but the Miners went up 33-23 with Logan Webb’s free throws with 3:46 to play but the Miners would only score once more in the third. Sefton went on an 8-0 run of his own over a 1:05 late in the third. During that stretch, Sefton just put things on his back offensively and showed his experience in a state title game and beyond. A Pickett three-pointer tied the game at 33 before Braden Walters ended a Linton-Stockton drought just before the quarter ended.
Blackhawk Christian took back the lead with 6:51 left in the game on a Pickett basket. As Linton-Stockton faced the 36-35 deficit with 5:59 to play, the Miners were forced to call a timeout after starting the second half just 2-of-17 from the field while the Braves were 7-of-14 during that same stretch.
With 4:13 to play, the Braves extended a long possession before Aiden Muldoon comfortably knocked down a three from the corner right in front of the Blackhawk Christian bench. It was the sixth man’s 12th three point make of the season and it pushed the lead to 39-35. Hart, who had been held scoreless for Linton-Stockton in the second half, finally was able to answer on the other end with a trip to the foul line on the next Miner possession to get back within two points.
A pull up three pointer for Webb with 2:30 to play came up short and Davidson came down with a rebound that allowed the Braves to run clock as Linton-Stockton tried to make things happen in their defensive zone. The Braves were able to play keep away in the zone down to 1:21 on the clock before the Miners’ seventh foul sent Pickett to the free throw line where he knocked down both shots to lead 43-37.
With 1:10 to play, Hart broke through his shooting slump with a three pointer to make it 43-30, just the third make from the field in the second half for the Miners.
After a Davidson free throw miss at the one-minute mark, Hart was unable to hit a three for Linton-Stockton and the Miners were forced to send Sefton to the free throw line with 55.1 seconds left, trailing 44-40; the senior hit the first. After a Webb three missed, Sefton chased down the loose ball and threw it off a Miner player before going out of bounds. The hustle play gave Blackhawk Christian the ball back and it allowed Sefton to head right back to the free throw line as Linton-Stockton was not allowing the Braves to run clock in the final minute.
Blackhawk Christian had a transition chance with 27.8 seconds to go, but a bounce pass from Pickett to Furst at the basket couldn’t be handled, giving the ball back to the Miners as they tried to cut down a five-point deficit. That look for Linton-Stockton went to Hart, who’s turnaround missed but a Nathan Frady rebound put the Miners back on the line again to hit one of two. The end of the game came down to the final 11 seconds with the Braves leading 49-45 with possession and Davidson going to the line where he hit one.
Davidson and Furst, of course, put the exclamation point on the game with a Davidson steal leading to a closing seconds Furst dunk for the win.
After the game, Nathan Frady of Linton-Stockton was honored with the IHSAA’s Mental Attitude Award.