Evansville Courier & Press
HUNTINGBURG, Ind. — Somehow, Braeden Beard was left this wide open.
There wasn’t a defender within 10 feet of the Tell City senior when classmate Spencer Fest hit him with a jump pass as he cut toward the basket. Beard rose up for a two-handed slam and it was like a scene scripted out of a movie.
In the background were several other Marksmen – Fest, Trent Arnold and literally the entire bench – jumping in the air with him and then landing when the 6-foot-5 forward flushed it through the net. It was the shining moment in Saturday’s Class 2A Sectional 48 championship game at Huntingburg Memorial Gym, as it sent an already deafening Tell City cheering section into a frenzy in the final minutes of a 46-36 win over Mater Dei.
“It feels like a dream right now,” said Beard, the program’s all-time leading scorer who had 18 points.
Tell City (20-5) advances to the Paoli Regional and will play Southwestern (Hanover) at 11 a.m. CST Saturday.
The No. 1-ranked Rebels (25-1) cruised past Milan in the second half of its sectional title game after trailing by one at halftime. The Tell City-Southwestern winner will meet either No. 8 Linton-Stockton (24-3) or No. 9 Paoli (23-3) in the championship game at 7 p.m.
As featured on their warm-up shirts, the Marksmen motto is “For the City.”
Arnold said it’d been a dream of the seven seniors since they were in grade school to win a sectional title. This was their last shot at ending the program’s 26-year drought. For the first time since 1993, the Marksmen add something shiny and new to the boys’ basketball section of the trophy cases at school.
“It was a very emotional game,” said Arnold, who scored a game-high 19 points. “It was a very important game to us, like the most important game we’ve ever played in. For all us seniors, it could’ve been our last game ever.”
Mater Dei (17-8) led 8-2 after the first quarter but it was cut to 18-17 at halftime.
Tell City felt fortunate to only be down by one at the break and then weathered a mini-storm in the third quarter after its two primary ball-handlers picked up their third fouls. The Wildcats were on a 7-2 run out of the half until Arnold was fouled on a 3-point attempt. He converted each at the free-throw line and then drained one of his three 3s on the next possession to tie the game at 25 apiece.
Arnold delivered clutch shots all night, including the go-ahead to break a 32-all tie after which point Tell City never looked back.
“He was phenomenal,” Marksmen head coach Matt Lynch said.
Ultimately, it was the defense that won the game.
Mater Dei was held to nearly 33 points less than its season average. Its 36 were easily a season-low and it came on 35 percent field-goal shooting, including 4-for-17 from the perimeter (23.5).
Beard said Tell City had prepared for the Wildcats every practice since losing to them by three in Evansville back on Jan. 18. The Marksmen controlled the tempo by hitting more shots (43 percent) and getting back in transition.
Their coaches and players wore red blazers to the game in memory of the late Dr. Gene Ress, who was heavily involved in Tell City athletics before he died last season at 82. It was also a general tribute to the teams of old. The 1993 sectional team wore the blazers as well.
While this would typically be about the current players, they pin it back to the community. That’s who they’ve been playing for. It’s evident in their warm-up shirts and when they broke down a huddle after cutting down the nets and posing for hundreds of photographs on the court.
And now they have bigger aspirations.
“1-2-3 Family. 4-5-6 State.”