Great Expectations: Oral history of Brownstown Central’s state title run in 2023-24 - Seymour Tribune (2024)

Great Expectations: Oral history of Brownstown Central’s state title run in 2023-24 - Seymour Tribune (1)

The Braves pose with their 2023-24 Class 2A Indiana State Championship trophy at Gainbridge Fieldhouse earlier this year.

Jeff Lubker | For The Tribune

Great Expectations: Oral history of Brownstown Central’s state title run in 2023-24 - Seymour Tribune (2)

2023-24 season stats

Great Expectations: Oral history of Brownstown Central’s state title run in 2023-24 - Seymour Tribune (3)

2023-24 game results

Great Expectations: Oral history of Brownstown Central’s state title run in 2023-24 - Seymour Tribune (4)

2024 sectional roster

Great Expectations: Oral history of Brownstown Central’s state title run in 2023-24 - Seymour Tribune (5)

Brownstown’s Jack Benter gets his shot off against Parke Heritage in the semistate final earlier this season at Southport High School.

Jeff Lubker | For The Tribune

Great Expectations: Oral history of Brownstown Central’s state title run in 2023-24 - Seymour Tribune (6)

Brownstown’s Parker Hehman looks to make a play against the Raiders at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in the State Final.

Jeff Lubker | For The Tribune

Great Expectations: Oral history of Brownstown Central’s state title run in 2023-24 - Seymour Tribune (7)

Braves Adam Stahl puts up a shot during Brownstown Central’s win over conference foe Scottsburg earlier this season.

Jeff Lubker | For The Tribune

Great Expectations: Oral history of Brownstown Central’s state title run in 2023-24 - Seymour Tribune (8)

Brownstown’s Chace Coomer goes up with the shot earlier this season against Henryville.

Jeff Lubker | For The Tribune

Great Expectations: Oral history of Brownstown Central’s state title run in 2023-24 - Seymour Tribune (9)

Brownstown’s Colby Hall (34) goes up for the basket earlier this season against Greensburg.

Jeff Lubker | For The Tribune

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Brownstown’s Micah Sheffer soars to the rim with a layup against Park-Tudor earlier this year in the semistate semifinal.

Jeff Lubker | For The Tribune

Great Expectations: Oral history of Brownstown Central’s state title run in 2023-24 - Seymour Tribune (11)

Brownstown’s Pierson Wheeler (30) shoots from distance against Parke Heritage in semistate earlier this season.

Jeff Lubker | For The Tribune

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Brownstown Central’s Caiden Gwin shoots from outside this season during the Braves’ 71-49 win over visiting Bedford North Lawrence.

Jeff Lubker | For The Tribune

Great Expectations: Oral history of Brownstown Central’s state title run in 2023-24 - Seymour Tribune (13)

Brownstown Central’s Gregory Hutcheson looks to pass the ball on this season during the Braves’ 95-47 win over visiting Austin.

Jeff Lubker | For The Tribune

When the annual Indiana-Kentucky high school basketball All Star games are staged later this week, Jackson County will be represented in the boys contests for the first time in nearly 40 years.

Brownstown Central’s Jack Benter earned a spot on the Indiana squad after a remarkable senior season in which he averaged 25.6 points, led his team to its first-ever state title and ended his career with 2,550 points, 11th all-time on Indiana’s boys scoring list.

The last All Star on the boys side from Jackson County was Brownstown’s Jeff Morning in 1986. One of Morning’s teammates on that All Star team, incidentally, was current Seymour head coach and former North Judson standout Kirk Manns.

On the girls side, the most recent local All Star was Trinity Lutheran’s Sydney Jaynes who donned an Indiana jersey in 2021.

Benter will wear the No. 2 jersey to signify his runner-up finish in this year’s Mr. Basketball voting. He and his Hoosier teammates will take on Kentucky in Lexington on Friday night and in Indianapolis on Saturday night.

The inter-state games mark the official end to the 2023-24 high school basketball season, one that will be remember by local hoops fans for years to come.

Benter and his Brownstown Central teammates entered the season with heavy expectations. Following a run to the Final Four in the Class 2A tournament in 2023, the Braves appeared to have nothing standing between them and the 2024 state title.

Then life happened. Basketball life. Injuries and illness hit. Bad luck struck. Off court issues arose. At one point, the team everyone thought was invincible lost three times in a four-game stretch.

The remarkably close-knit group stayed together and endured it all, however, and achieved its ultimate goal. During Brownstown Central’s march to the state finals, The Tribune took a look back at the 1969-70 Seymour Owls, a talented, high-scoring team that many considered the best in Jackson County’s history.

The 2023-24 Brownstown Central Braves certainly made the case that they now deserve the “county’s best ever” mantle after completing their title run. We thought it would be fun to take a look back at the Braves’ championship season, as told by players, coaches and other participants who lived it.

Part I: The Team

Even a quick glance at the pieces returning for Brownstown Central’s 2023-24 season explains why preseason anticipation surrounding the team was sky high.

The Braves won 24 games and made a Final Four appearance the previous season, and nearly all of that squad’s production was coming back.

Lost to graduation were 6-foot-3 Jakob Arthur, a steady, sturdy presence, and 6-5 Carson Darlage, a gamer whose last-second free throws in the semifinal helped BC escape with the 2023 Southwestern Sectional title.

Despite Arthur and Darlage’s departures, Brownstown returned its top five scorers (who accounted for 91 percent of the previous season’s output), its top two rebounders and top three assist men.

Though injuries made consistency in the starting lineup impossible, head coach Dave Benter opened the season with a veteran lineup composed of senior floor general Parker Hehman (11.3 points, 5.3 assists), all-everything senior Jack Benter (25.6 points, 7.4 rebounds), junior center Colby Hall (10.3 points, 6.7 rebounds), junior shooting guard Chace Coomer (8.7 points) and sophom*ore intangible man Micah Sheffer (5.9 points, 4.8 rebounds).

Senior Adam Stahl and junior Pierson Wheeler were the first options off the bench, followed by senior Caiden Gwin, junior Greg Hutcheson and sophom*ore Lane Pendleton.

Parker Hehman (senior point guard): We had great players, but our togetherness was the difference. People saw the adversity we went through on the court with injuries. What people don’t realize was the stuff that we went through off the court. My grandma (Peggy “Nana” Hehman) was diagnosed with a rare kind of cancer. When that happened, every guy on the team, everybody’s parents, all went by her house and talked to her. Then, going into winter break, Jack’s grandpa (Robert Pope) passed away. The whole team, all their families, there weren’t enough seats at the funeral home for everybody. We’re a bunch of brothers.

Caiden Gwin (senior guard): This team faced a lot of adversity throughout the season and every time we just stuck together. Whenever someone went down, the next person stepped up. Everyone played their role and knew what they had to do.

Chace Coomer (junior guard): None of us ever fought in the locker room. There was no bad blood. We’d get competitive in practice, but we were always friends in the locker room.

Micah Sheffer (sophom*ore guard): We all hang out with each other. We’d watch basketball games and go out to eat with each other. We had a really tight brotherhood. The team’s leadership, too, is different than anything I’ve ever been a part of.

Dave Benter (head coach): Jack and Parker have always been team-first guys. They’re locker room guys. Adam and Caiden are the same way. They get a thrill from being part of a team,

being in the locker room, hanging around with the guys. If they scored four points or 25 points, if we won you couldn’t tell the difference in the locker room. There’s not a lot of teams out there like that.

Kevin Gwin (assistant coach): Parker studies the game better than any player I’ve ever seen. He’s vocal. He’s got the instinct to lead. He would know the scouting report probably better than most of us coaches did. Sometimes Dave would be like, “Okay, Parker, be quiet and let me coach.”

Micah Sheffer: With Parker, it’s just another level of leadership. His work ethic trumps a lot of other people. He’s not the most athletic guy on the court, but he works really hard at it. The main thing about him is he loves the game so much.

Jack Benter (senior forward): Parker and me, we’ve been best friends since we were little. We played a lot of basketball together whether it’s AAU or school ball. No high schooler talks like him on the floor and keeps people accountable like him. That was a big piece to our team this year.

Parker Hehman: Jack wants the best for everybody else. Obviously, he works really hard for himself, but he wants the best for his teammates, too. That’s the biggest thing about him.

Pierson Wheeler (junior guard): Jack knew everything, he did everything. He was the best player I’ve ever played with. He did everything that you could ask for and could help you through anything, teach you anything. He plays his game and respects everybody. He’s humble.

Chace Coomer: Colby’s a little bit quiet, but he’s definitely gotten louder over the last couple years. One game, I wasn’t shooting very well, and he picked up my head and said, “Come on, hit the next one. Don’t stop shooting.” Colby’s not nearly as selfish as he should be. He should be more selfish with the ball.

Adam Stahl (senior center): Colby sometimes passed the ball too much. He needs to just go. He’s a good scorer. And his arms are so long. In practice, I’d say all the time, “Your arms are too long, man! I can’t do anything against you.”

Colby Hall (junior center): Adam and I play the same position. Every day, we would be in the post, always doing drills with each other. We made each other better. Adam had some big games for us this year when I was out and hurt.

Pierson Wheeler: Adam was a big key to our team. He would say funny stuff to relax us and to calm us down. He was a competitor.

Micah Sheffer: I grew up playing against Chace a lot, from (kindergarten) through eighth grade. We always had that rivalry. We were kind of in the same boat because Jack and Parker and all those other players grew up playing together. Whenever I came in, that was Colby and Coomer’s first year, too. We three were kind of the new people and everybody else was already meshed. We helped build each other up.

Chace Coomer: Micah’s the guy you don’t want to play against. You want him on your team. He’s the Dennis Rodman of our team, you could say. He likes to guard the best guy. He loves to rebound. He doesn’t care if he scores. He loves to be the energy guy. Every team needs one of those guys.

Parker Hehman: Micah’s a good leader. He’s loud. He never quits playing hard. Every rebound, every steal, he’s always on the floor. He’s relentless.

Jack Benter: Pierson’s role was different throughout the year because of injuries. He’d come off the bench or even start a game. That’s tough to not have the same role the whole year. He performed really well throughout the season and in the tournament.

Dave Benter: Greg is an energy guy that you know is going to give you everything he has. Caiden was a really good shooter and very quick. This team was hard to get minutes on because of our talent and depth, but you never heard Caiden complain or saw any kind of bad body language. Lane has improved dramatically the last two years. Probably any other team I coached in the last 25 years Lane would have had a bigger role.

Greg Hutcheson (junior guard): Our lineup, one through five, was unreal. They could probably be the starting five for almost any team in the state. So obviously not everybody’s going to get to play. We knew we had to be ready to go in and do whatever the team needed, whether it was playing defense or knocking down a shot.

Parker Hehman: Greg, Pierson and those guys coming off the bench brought a lot of energy. They’re competitors. It was their role to play hard, play defense, do the little things, whether they played two minutes or 20 minutes. They were really helpful to a bunch of our wins.

Part II: The Coach

Accounting, not coaching, was Dave Benter’s original career plan. Always a good student, he figured cost analysis rather than film study was his future.

“Once I got to my junior year, I realized this basketball thing was going to be over if I didn’t do something,” he said.

After seeing action in six varsity games his sophom*ore year, Benter cracked the starting lineup as a junior. The Braves’ scoring punch that season was provided by Todd Isaacs (24.5 ppg) and Marc Hutcheson (19.2), so Benter contributed elsewhere, leading the Braves in rebounding, nearly leading the team in assists (he was second only to point guard Jason Stuckwisch) and winning the defensive player award.

The team, meanwhile, had the kind of season that could turn an accountant into a gym rat. The Braves won 18 games and claimed their first Seymour Sectional in seven years, with Benter scoring a team-high 24 against Jennings County in the final.

As a senior, despite a nagging, season-long back issue, Benter’s game blossomed. He led the Braves in scoring (25.0), rebounding (8.9) and assists, was named the team’s most valuable player, earned an all-Mid Southern Conference nod and was an all-state honorable mention.

Two months after the season ended, in May of 1992, Benter signed with Hanover College to play for head coach Mike Beitzel, who was ushering the program from NAIA to NCAA Division III.

As Hanover’s program grew, so did Benter. A late growth spurt pushed him to 6-foot-6 and over 200 pounds. For perspective, he was 5-foot-9 and 135 pounds during his freshman year at Brownstown Central.

Benter’s skills grew, too, and transformed him into one of the nation’s top Division III players. After averaging 7.5 points his freshman season and 18.6 as a sophom*ore, Benter assembled two of Hanover’s most decorated seasons as a junior and senior.

During his junior season, he averaged 23.9 points and 8.4 rebounds while leading the Panthers to a 22-7 record and its first-ever NCAA D3 tournament berth. His game-winning 12-footer gave HC its first-ever tourney win, a one-point victory over Wheaton College.

Individually, Benter’s junior season yielded two in-season tournament MVP awards, ICAC conference MVP honors (he led the conference in scoring and rebounding), Division III Midwest Region player of the year and a second-team All-America selection.

As a senior, Benter led Hanover (21-6) to its third consecutive 20-win season and second consecutive tourney bid. He guided the Panthers to their first conference title in 14 years and for the second year in a row led the league in scoring (22.5) and rebounding (8.7).

That senior-season performance earned Benter the ultimate award, the 1996 NCAA Division III Player of the Year as voted by the National Association of Basketball Coaches. He ended his career with 1,934 points (fourth all-time at Hanover), 755 rebounds (sixth all-time), 63 consecutive double-digit scoring performances, 27 double-doubles and a 79-28 record.

Hanover’s impact on Benter’s future as a coach may have been even greater than his on-court accomplishments. During his four years on campus, the Panther basketball program was a cradle of coaches.

Benter got to live and play with a slew of future coaches. Among his teammates were Jon Miller (current Hanover head coach), Stacy Meyers (two-time state champion head coach at Greensburg), Micah Shrewsberry (Notre Dame), Toby Carrigan (Mount St. Joseph), Kyle Brummett (Wabash), Hank Weedin (former Salem High School head coach) and Sean Hanrahan (Warner).

Dave Benter: “All those guys loved basketball. (Hanover) had a locker room similar to what (Brownstown Central) had this year. We were all team-first guys. We hung out together outside of the gym. We knew we wanted to be coaches. We’d all go back and work Hanover camps together in the summer. Brad Stevens (former DePauw player and Butler coach) would come work Hanover camps with us. We had a lot of late nights, talking about basketball. We were all really good friends off the court.”

Though he flirted with an overseas pro-playing opportunity following his graduation in 1996, Benter chose the bird in hand: a biology teaching position and freshman basketball coaching job at Southport High School.

Benter coached the Cardinal freshman for two years before he accepted a JV coaching position at Columbus North under its head coach Joe Preda, who two years earlier had taken the reins from North’s legendary former player and coach Bill Stearman.

Benter spent the summer of 1998 working with the Bull Dogs when he got a call from Brownstown, which was looking to fill its head basketball job after Mark DeHart stepped down to concentrate on his athletic director duties.

Superintendent Donal Neal, principal Gerald Rose and DeHart entertained several applicants, but the search team honed in on the 25-year-old Benter.

Dave Benter: About two weeks before school started, I was prepared to start at Columbus North when the Brownstown job opened up. They called me and wanted to come talk to me. Initially, I told them no, that I wasn’t interested. Then my college coach (Beitzel) told me I could be an assistant forever and that Brownstown would be the kind of job I’d always be looking for. (Brownstown) called me back a few days later and asked me to come in and talk to them. I came in, we talked and they convinced me this was the place to be. I ended up taking the job.

The summer of 1998 was a busy one for Benter. In June, he married Kristy Pope, also a 1992 Brownstown Central graduate, who played basketball and was a school record-holding sprinter during her high school years.

The couple would soon start raising two athletically talented children, Katherine and Jack. Though unknowable at the time, Dave (856 points) was destined to rank third in career high school scoring in his own house behind his son (2,550) and daughter (1,311).

On the sideline, Benter learned that coming home isn’t always easy, at least at first. His first three Brownstown Central teams endured 4-17, 8-14 and 10-11 records. His fourth team finished 15-11, however, and started the Braves on their current run of 23 consecutive winning seasons. In that span, Brownstown has enjoyed 12 20-win seasons, 12 sectional titles, four regional crowns and three trips to the state championship.

Dave Benter: Those first couple years were long, but also rewarding. Those guys helped establish our work ethic and culture. They established what it takes to be successful.

Benter’s first coaching staff included Mark Lubker, a friend, former BC player and Gus Macker teammate, and Kevin Gwin, an Eastern Hanco*ck graduate who moved to Brownstown and joined former basketball coach Otha Smith’s staff in 1993. Gwin remained on staff when Benter took over and has continued as an assistant throughout Benter’s 26 seasons.

Kevin Gwin: One of the first things we had a conversation about was how his Hanover coach, Mike Beitzel, always said the game of basketball is based on mismatches. If you can develop a mismatch, you’re going to be successful. Dave is one of the most humble people you will ever meet. He’s pragmatic in his approach. He will develop an offensive system based on the talent he has and what that talent is capable of. He’s not set in stone. He’s probably changed his offensive philosophy four or five times based on the groups of kids he has. When we had two post guys with Clint and Eric (Parker) and Pat McClintock on the perimeter, we ran a lot of high-low stuff. When Jacoby Shade, Cam Shoemaker and Zach McCory played, we ran a John Beilein/Michigan series offense. When Jack came along, we put in a lot more ball screen stuff to get the ball in his hands to let him create for himself and for other people.

Parker Hehman: Coach Benter always wants to learn new stuff. He’s always going to coaching clinics to make himself a better coach. He’s learning all the time.

Jack Benter: He takes a lot of pride in being a coach. The biggest thing is his work ethic. He works harder than other coaches. There are nights at home where he watches film for four or five hours. During the tournament, that’s all he does. He probably watches 10 or 15 games for each team. I felt like every game this year and during my four years, I was well prepared.

Kevin Gwin: What I think is fascinating about him, he understands when to call a set at the right time in the game. He doesn’t call it too early, because he doesn’t want to show it yet. Then he knows exactly when the right time is to call it to get a basket. He understands the timing of when to call certain sets to get the mismatch that we need.

Caiden Gwin: He’s been doing it for a long time and he puts people in good positions. He knows the game really well. He always has a scouting report that has pretty much every play for the other team. He knows the other team’s personnel well, what they do best and what we need to do to stop them.

Colby Hall: He’s so smart in how he goes about things, how he sets up things. Everything’s planned out. He stays calm. He keeps us players calm. He has detailed scouting reports and knows everything about the other team, what their players like to do, what plays they run, the defense they like to run, everything.

Micah Sheffer: We’ll play three games in a week and for every one of those games he’s got a full scouting report to read through. When I come in here in the morning, he’s here. When I leave after practice, he’s here. He has his computer turned up so you can hear the film playing.

Parker Hehman: He’s really good at working with players. When our bodies are tired, when we’ve gone through a bunch, he’ll sympathize with us. He talks to us. When we lose, that’s obviously on us players, but he’ll say he wasn’t good either. That sticks out a lot. He’s good at developing players. During the basketball season, he’s always locked in. He’s here all the time, working. He works just as hard as we do, and we can’t thank him enough for that.

Chace Coomer: He can get something out of you that you don’t necessarily know you have in yourself. My freshman year, I was the worst defensive player in the gym. There’s no doubt in my mind that I’m a ten-times better defensive player now than I was my freshman year.

Greg Hutcheson: He trusts that we can go out there and do what he wants us to do. He always tells us to play with confidence. He doesn’t get mad at missed shots. Instead, if a player misses a shot and gets down on himself and doesn’t shoot the ball the next time, that’s when he gets upset.

Jack Benter: He’s always honest with everybody. If you ask him for his opinion, he’s going to tell you what he thinks. That goes a long way. You can take his word and get better at the things that you need to get better at.

Part III: The All Star

The first basketball goal the Benters purchased for their kids was actually meant for daughter Katherine, who showed an early love for the game. Because he’s a little brother and little brothers always play with the older kid’s stuff, young Jack Benter started shooting on his sister’s basket.

Even the coach, Dave Benter noticed something remarkable. “He picked up the basketball one night and started shooting on that goal. He had perfect form. It was just natural. He was 18 months old.”

What followed sounds like the origin-story montage in a superhero movie.

Dave Benter: At three years old he was making free throws. At times as a five-year-old he was beating some of my varsity guys in 3-point contests. It came really easily to him. Usually, two-year-olds are running around the gym, but he would come here and just sit and watch games. Now, in church he wouldn’t sit like that. But you’d bring him to the gym and he would just sit and watch the whole game.

Benter’s game started getting noticed as early as kindergarten. During his elementary school years, he played for Indianapolis-based AAU teams. He teammates included Kanon Catchings (from Brownsburg, and former 2024 Purdue commit), Braylon Mullins (from Greenfield-Central, with offers from UConn and Kansas), Aaron Fine (from Noblesville, a preferred walk-on at Purdue) and Dra Gibbs (from McCutcheon, currently playing for Illinois).

Starting in sixth grade, he and BC teammate Parker Hehman teamed with Caden Richardson, Cody Klancy and Wyatt Zeller from Scottsburg, Jack Miller from (at the time) Madison, Carter Kent from Jennings County and Kasym Nash from Borden to form one of the state’s best AAU squads.

In ninth grade, he tried out for and was selected to join Under Armour Grand Park Premier, a club that boasts Purdue’s Braden Smith as an alumnus. Jack’s age-group GPP team included five Indiana All Stars and two Kentucky All Stars.

In his freshman season at Brownstown Central, Jack announced his arrival immediately, scoring 25 points in his first high school game. In his second game, against Seymour, he scored 29.

One signature moment followed another. In his freshman season, facing withering double-team pressure, he scored all 23 of his team’s second-half points against Northview in the sectional semifinals.

In his sophom*ore season, he scored 37 points and helped BC overcome a 17-point second-quarter deficit to beat Floyd Central in overtime. Down by a point with four seconds left, Benter raced up court and nailed a contested 35-foot shot at the buzzer to win the game.

In his junior season, he famously shattered the backboard on a dunk during the second quarter against Silver Creek. The game had to be postponed so a new basket could be installed. When the game resumed 10 days later, Benter scored 35 points after the restart to finish the game with 48, breaking his dad’s school record for points scored in a game (Dave scored 47 in 1992 against Brown County).

The next night, Jack broke his own single-game record by scoring 51 against Austin.

Perhaps the most signature of all signature moments came in his senior season in the state championship game. Known simply as The Pass, a double-teamed Benter delivered a perfect cross-court, behind-the-back pass to Micah Sheffer for a 3-pointer that sealed the state title.

Scoring, of course, was Benter’s calling card throughout his high school career. He scored 385 points and averaged 18.3 during his freshman season.

He scored 700 points his sophom*ore year, passing his dad on BC’s scoring list. Dave scored 856 points in 50 games. Jack scored that many in 39 games.

In his junior season, he added another 774 points while averaging 28.7, both career highs. He broke Brownstown’s all-time scoring mark in his 58th game, passing John Reid’s 1,394. Three games later, he broke the Jackson County boys scoring record, surpassing the 1,506 points scored by Medora’s James Reynolds.

The march continued during Jack’s senior year. He passed 2,000 against Mitchell, becoming the 71st Indiana player ever to reach the plateau. He claimed the title of Jackson County’s all-time leading scorer, boys or girls, against Bedford North Lawrence, passing Trinity’s Bailey Tabeling, who scored 2,266 career points.

With 31 points against Eastern (Pekin), Benter moved into the Top 20 of Indiana’s all-time scoring list. When he ended the state championship game with 25 points, he settled at No. 11 all-time.

Benter was a “Core Group” All Star selection following his junior season and earned an Indiana All Star jersey following his senior season. He finished as the runner-up in the Mr. Basketball voting, garnering 122 votes behind Flory Bidunga’s 198.

Making Benter’s scoring more impressive was that it ramped up against the best competition and in the most important moments. He averaged more points against Class 4A teams (29.5) than Class 1A teams (24.9). Or 3A (23.3) and 2A teams (25.0), for that matter.

Benter averaged more points in games against Top 50 teams (28.0) than teams outside of the Top 200 (24.8). He consistently scored more in tournament games (27.2) than in regular-season contests (24.8).

Dave Benter: Looking back, it’s incredible what he could do his freshman year because he really couldn’t beat any good players off the dribble. All he could do was shoot. Then his sophom*ore year he started to become more of a complete player. His junior year, he became more physically dominant. This year, when he was healthy, he was more efficient. The game slowed down for him his senior year. I bet he made 50 (end of quarter) buzzer beaters in his four years. One college coach said he had never recruited a kid who made more buzzer beaters than Jack. He said that after Jack’s sophom*ore year.

Kevin Gwin: Besides him being a generational, never-have-a-kid-like-him-ever-again player, the thing about Jack is he can score at all levels. Down low, he can play with his back to the basket. If you challenge him on the perimeter with pace or speed, he’s really good in the mid-post. If people face guard him, we had sets to get him the ball at the elbows or free-throw line. And, of course, he can shoot it from deep.

Adam Stahl: He just sees the game differently. You can’t really teach that. I don’t know what Coach Benter feeds him, or what he does. He’s just special.

Micah Sheffer: You don’t understand how good he is until you try to guard him. My freshman year, I always, always had to guard Jack. They’d always put me on a full-court press on him. He uses his body so well. He’ll hit you with a little jab and a shot fake. You’re falling at that jab and then you’re trying to recover at the shot fake, and then he’s already by you by the time you’re back. He’s very quiet. The only time he really talks is when he’s being a leader. He never, ever (trash talks) on the floor. He lets his game talk for him.

Parker Hehman: When we would come in and work out by ourselves, just me and him, he did things that nobody else around here, or even in the state, could do. It’s still a shock to me. I’ve seen him do about anything. That pass (in the state final) was great, but I wasn’t surprised he made it. The Mr. Basketball thing was cool. People were disappointed that Jack didn’t win, but I don’t think he’s too disappointed. It’s just cool even to be in it.

Chace Coomer: I like to say that I was a part of (the shattered backboard vs. Silver Creek), because I got the assist. I shoveled the pass to him and started running back down the court. I kind of looked over my shoulder and knew he was going to dunk it. I turned and flexed to the crowd and bumped into the ref. As I was saying sorry, I saw his face light up. I looked back and Jack was lying in a pool of glass. Kids were running out to grab a piece of glass.

Micah Sheffer: My favorite play of his was (the buzzer beater) against Floyd Central. I was in eighth grade. Behind the back, then the crossover, then hit the half-court shot.

Adam Stahl: Once, in practice, he dunked on Coach (Marty) Young. That was pretty cool. It was just a scrimmage, but we all turned around and thought, “Whoa, that just happened!” That’s most of Jack’s plays. You don’t realize it happened, then you’re like, “Oh, he just did that.”

Dave Benter: I’ve seen him shoot across half court and make 9 out of 10. He’s had unbelievable range since he was little. He’s had elite range even at an early age.

Kevin Gwin: At the Charlie Hughes (Shootout, a summer event in Indianapolis), between his sophom*ore and junior years, the college coaches were sitting on the sideline right across from our bench. We were playing Bloomington South. Jack was playing okay, but in the fourth quarter, it’s what we called Jack Benter Time. He hit, like, seven 3s in the fourth quarter. Earlier in the game, he had gotten a cut on his finger. I turned and asked our parents if any of them had a Band-Aid. J.R. (Holmes, South’s coach) turned to me and said, “Call an ambulance and get him to the hospital. Just get him out of here.” (Purdue) Coach (Matt) Painter was sitting right across from me and Jack hit a three. The next one was a foot farther back, then a foot and a half, then two feet. The last one was right inside half court. I was watching Matt Painter. I think Jack made an impression.

Dave Benter: I asked Jack, if every school in the nation offers you (a scholarship), where would you want to go? He said Purdue University. He knew right away that’s where he wanted to go. We went up there to the Purdue team camp (after his sophom*ore year, in the summer of 2022). I don’t think at the time (Purdue) knew if they were going to offer a shooting guard in that (2024) class. After Charlie Hughes, that following Monday is when Matt Painter offered. They offered towards the end of June and he committed in the middle of July. I think he was the first, or one of the one of the first, Power 5 guys in the nation to commit. It was really exciting. As soon as they offered, you could tell it was a relief. It was still really early at that point to commit, but he didn’t enjoy the recruiting process. He knew where he wanted to go and just wanted to focus on playing.

Part IV: Building a Championship Schedule

If it’s true that defeats are more instructive than victories, the starting point for Brownstown Central’s championship season may be a regional loss in March of 2022.

Still competing in Class 3A at the time, the Braves took several large steps forward during the 2021-22 season. They won 22 games, eight more than the previous season. They beat quality competition such as Class 4A Top 10 Floyd Central, a 19-win North Harrison team and traditional

powers like Bedford North Lawrence and Greensburg. And they won the sectional title after bowing out in the semifinals the year before.

In the Greencastle Regional semifinals, BC ran into eventual state champ Beech Grove, an athletic squad that pressured the Braves defensively and forced them to play catch-up throughout a 65-57 defeat.

The loss stung. Knowing the quality of his team and looking ahead to Brownstown’s move to Class 2A the following year, Dave Benter decided on the spot to upgrade his team’s schedule and prevent future Beech Groves from happening again.

Dave Benter: We realized that we’d played a good schedule for a 2A school, but to win a state championship takes sacrifice. After we got beat in that regional, I apologize to the seniors and promised the underclassmen that we would play the best teams we can. We wanted to play the best teams even if it meant losing some games.

Parker Hehman: In the regional, a very athletic team pressed us the whole game and we weren’t ready for that. We never played a team like that and it took a while to get adjusted to it. After we lost that game, Coach Benter, it definitely wasn’t on him, but he took full responsibility for not playing teams like that. He scheduled hard teams for us in the summer. Nobody really pays attention in summer basketball, so if you go 0-20, nobody’s going to say anything about it, or if you go 20-0, it doesn’t matter. Getting ready for the regular season matters.

High school basketball scheduling is generally contract-based, making the effort to reshape the Braves’ in-season slate slow-moving. Summer basketball, however, is a different story. With a few phone calls, the Braves could be playing top competition within a few weeks.

Aggressively seeking out the best competition led the Braves to participate in team camps or shootouts at Purdue, IU, Bellarmine, Marian and UIndy, where they were exposed to some of the best teams in Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio.

The Braves also played in leagues in New Albany and Bloomington, and participated in the well-regarded two-day Charlie Hughes Shootout in Indianapolis.

Dave Benter: When we’d go to these shootouts, I’d tell (the organizers) that we wanted to play the best teams. (At Charlie Hughes) they rank the teams and put them in pods. We were in one of the top two or three pods last summer.

At the 2022 Charlie Hughes event, the summer following the Beech Grove loss, the Braves played in a Class 4A pool and defeated Ft. Wayne Snider by 24, Bloomington South by 12 and Hamilton Southeastern by three. They lost by a single point to New Palestine.

At the same event in the summer of 2023, BC went undefeated against another slate of Class 4A competition, beating Crown Point by 24, Center Grove by 21, Westfield by nine and Indianapolis Cathedral by seven.

Dave Benter: We were pretty dominant. You could tell the difference in our team this past summer, the dominance we had against a lot of those teams.

Micah Sheffer: We played the best teams in the state, in any class. I mean, we were playing Crispus Attucks, Westfield. We were playing good teams, a bunch of fast-paced teams. They were getting up and down the court.

Colby Hall: We really tried to play the most athletic and biggest and best teams in the state. We thought we could compete, and it helped us during the season. Playing against Carmel, Lawrence North, Center Grove, all these big, athletic guys, it did nothing but help us.

Chace Coomer: I think coming into the gym they thought, who are these guys? A 2A school, with 400 kids in their school? I think they thought, “We’ve got these guys beat.” Then we’d come out, get the tip, Jack would go down and dunk one. We were off and running. I think we definitely surprised people.

Adam Stahl: After we beat teams like Carmel and Crown Point, I was like, yeah, we can hang with these guys. Coach Benter said he scheduled really hard because you’ve got to be exposed to it to gain confidence.

Jack Benter: We got to see different styles of basketball. We played Ben Davis and Cathedral, and then we also played teams that slowed it down. Playing against both of those styles of basketball really helped us because Park Tudor played us fast, but Providence played us really slow. Also, you can’t make mistakes playing against Cathedral and those teams. Against not-as-good teams, you can make mistakes and still win. Against the good teams, you’ve got to make as few mistakes as you can.

In the meantime, Dave Benter was re-engineering his team’s regular-season schedule. For the 2022-23 season, Trinity Lutheran (Class 1A), Clarksville (2A) and Washington (3A) were dropped from the schedule and Class 4A Columbus East and New Albany were added, along with a one-off game against Cincinnati Withrow, an athletic Class 4A-level school from across the border, as part of the Body Armor Classic holiday tournament at Charlestown.

A season later, Benter further ramped up his scheduling efforts. Madison, Floyd Central and Cincinnati Withrow were replaced by games with Class 4A heavyweights Carmel, Lawrence North and Jeffersonville. The Braves were also invited to participate in the Hall of Fame Classic, which allowed two extra games against Brownsburg and Indianapolis Attucks to be added.

In two seasons, the number of Class 4A teams on Brownstown’s schedule jumped from four to 10. Using Sagarin Ratings as a measure, the number of state-wide Top 10 opponents increased from zero to three. The number of Top 50 foes more than doubled from four to 10. The Braves’ schedule strength, according to Sagarin, jumped from 108th most difficult to 51st.

Dave Benter: We played by far the best schedule in Brownstown history.

Parker Hehman: Going into the season, of the top 10 teams in 4A, we played eight of them during the summer. When you see big teams on your schedule, you look forward to those games. That was a challenge we were ready for.

Pierson Wheeler: (The summer) gave us a lot of confidence. It helped us big time. We’d already played that competition and we knew what it takes to win against them. And we just did it.

Caiden Gwin: It was a really tough schedule, but the summer definitely prepared us for it. It was a challenge that helped us in the postseason when we played tougher teams.

Chace Coomer: We wanted to play a really tough schedule during season. We knew we had to do that if we wanted to make it far in the tournament.

Adam Stahl: You see these big schools on the schedule, and you’re like, What? We’re playing those guys? But then, in the back of your mind, you know that we played Carmel in the summer, and we played other big schools. I knew coming in we’d be locked in and focused.

Part V: Expectations

As the 2023-24 season approached, the stars appeared to be aligning.

Brownstown Central had a deep, experienced team headed by one of the state’s most reliable, prolific scorers. The schedule looked daunting, but tales of the Braves’ summer success bolstered the team’s and the fans’ hopes. And the Class 2A landscape, particularly in the southern part of the state, looked manageable since the south’s previous two state finalists, Linton and Providence, didn’t appear to have enough to challenge the Braves.

The favorable outlook caused fans and objective observers alike to form “State or Bust” expectations for the Braves.

Colby Hall: We had expectations to win a state championship. Everyone thought, oh, if you don’t win, all this and that. Coach told us, just get into practice, work hard every day, stay the course. Ignore all the outside noise.

Parker Hehman: When we lost to Linton-Stockton, people started saying we were going to state the next season. I think that was everybody’s expectation, but it was on us to carry that out.

Greg Hutcheson: Starting pretty much in the spring, in open gyms and summer workouts, we knew what we had to do. We had really good seniors and they pushed everyone.

Micah Sheffer: Everybody around here thought that we should win state. We had to go out there every night and not let the social media get to us. Parker and Jack’s leadership, they made sure everybody stayed humble and focused on the next game. Don’t worry about the end. Just take one step after the other, stay focused on the team in front of us.

Jack Benter: Expectations were really high. Going into the season, I thought we had a shot to beat any team in the state. But it takes a little bit of luck, too. The best team normally wins, but with injuries and sicknesses and stuff like that, it takes luck. You have to block the noise and keep yourself and your team level-headed. Play every game like it’s your last. Our guys did a really good job of keeping level-headed and working hard every single day to achieve the last goal that we wanted to achieve.

Chace Coomer: There was a lot of pressure on all of us. I can’t imagine the pressure on Coach Benter. We knew we weren’t going to have a perfect season, but our losses helped us push forward.

Kevin Gwin: I think the kids probably handled expectations better than some of us coaches did. We never approached anything differently. We always tell (the players), don’t get too high, don’t get too low. It’s just basketball.

Pierson Wheeler: I started feeling a little pressure towards the postseason. (Coach Benter) just told us just stay together as a team, don’t worry about outside pressure. He said it’s all about us, and that helped.

Maria Conklin (Brownstown Central Athletic Director): Everybody was really hyped up. With our girls basketball success, too, that added some pressure. After the girls went to state, we heard a lot of, “The boys better get there, too. They better do it.” There was a whole lot of added pressure that the kids and the coaches didn’t need. But they responded well to it.

Conklin and BC ticket manager Jill Carlin witnessed the community’s expectations first-hand. During the summer, sales of all-sport passes, which included entry to all boys basketball home games, sold well. After past season-ticket holders were given a chance to renew, basketball season tickets went on sale.

Maria Conklin: Initially I thought, there’s no way we were going to sell out the season. But then people started calling and talking. We kept selling and selling until we couldn’t sell anymore. We realized, yeah, we’re going to have a packed gym all the time.

Brownstown’s gym has a capacity of 2,672. Space is usually reserved for various blocks of fans, such as visitors, band members and students. As ticket sales continued apace, Conklin and Carlin started playing Tetris with the gym’s seating, trying to move blocks of fans around to create more space.

Maria Conklin: We gave the visiting team a block (of 400 tickets). Then we had a block for our band and our cheer section. We ended up moving our middle school students behind our high school students to create a few more seats. We took a few away behind our bench to create a few more seats. We did our best to get everybody in.

Conklin estimated 1,500 season tickets were sold. When she took over the Athletic Director job from Mark DeHart in January of 2023, managing a sold-out gym wasn’t on the radar.

Maria Conklin: I was not really expecting sellouts when I hopped into the job. I knew we had a great basketball team, but it’s not one of the projects that we were thinking about. Thank goodness for Jill Carlin, our ticket manager. She handled a whole lot of that and made my life way easier.

For the players and coaches, knowing the gym was sold out for their upcoming season added to the excitement.

Kevin Gwin: The day they opened it up for the public to come buy tickets, I walked past the office and people were lined up past the flagpole. I was thinking, “Oh, boy. This is going to be something.” It was a cool experience.

Dave Benter: I had a few people checking with me, worried about not being able to get tickets. The town was kind of buzzing because everybody felt that we had a chance to be really good. I think the town genuinely enjoyed watching this group play and liked them as individuals.

Parker Hehman: We expected things like that with Jack on the team. Everybody, even people from out of town, wanted to buy season tickets, to come here to watch. It was cool but, at the end of the day, we were just playing basketball.

Pierson Wheeler: It made me want to win state more for the community. It created a great atmosphere. Our gym’s not that big, but it’s loud. When there’s a bad call, everybody’s screaming. There’s never a dull moment.

Micah Sheffer: Seeing everybody’s support, it makes you understand that you’re playing for a lot more than yourself and your team. You’re playing for the community. That makes you want to work harder to make sure you don’t let anybody else down, including yourself.

Jack Benter: Our community was great this year. They were always there to help us when we needed help. There was not a quiet home game this year.

Part VI: The Season

If there were any illusions that the road to a state title would be easy, they were dispelled within the season’s first eight days.

The Braves entered the season ranked second in the preseason Class 2A Associated Press poll behind Ft. Wayne Blackhawk (though Brownstown garnered the most first-place votes).

In the season opener, after a jittery start, Brownstown enjoyed a surprisingly easy win over Class 2A No. 8 Providence. Benter scored 33 and Stahl added 10 as the Braves built a 23-point lead before settling for a 68-55 victory. Three nights later, all five Brave starters scored in double figures during a 49-point dismantling of Mid-Southern Conference foe Salem.

That’s when the season took its first unexpected turn.

Brownstown headed into an exciting double weekend, traveling to Seymour on Friday night and then heading to Indianapolis for the first of its “big school” games against Lawrence North, the state’s No. 1 team according to the coaches poll.

Against a physical Seymour team, which went on to win 18 games, Brownstown fans held their collective breath when Benter went down in the first quarter after driving to the basket.

Jack Benter: I got bumped right when I jumped, so my leg came out from under me and I landed wrong on my knee. I hyperextended and sprained my knee, and sprained my calf, too.

Dave Benter: He said, “I thought I tore my ACL.” He went back to the locker room and (BC trainer) Devin (Harvey) did the ACL test. Devin said his ACL is strong, the only thing it could be is the meniscus. But Jack was putting weight on it and said he wanted to play.

Jack Benter: I felt like if I got it loosened back up, it would feel better, which it did. This was a big game. Even if I only played 20 minutes, I felt like that would help our team.

Dave Benter: When Jack came back from the locker room, he didn’t even stop to talk to me. He walked straight to the scorer’s table to check himself in. He just looked over at me, like, “Who should I go in for?”

The injury didn’t appear to slow Benter at all. Shortly after returning, he recovered a Seymour turnover, travelled the length of the court and dunked. He then he drained three consecutive 3-pointers, one from NBA range.

Benter, who averaged 33.3 points in four career games against Seymour, finished with 32 points to lead the Braves to a 65-51 win, BC’s 16th consecutive victory over the Owls. Colby Hall had his best effort of the young season with 16 points and eight rebounds.

The cost of the Seymour win, however, was soon apparent. Benter’s knee worsened and kept him out of the Lawrence North game the next night, a difficult blow for a player and a team looking to compete with the state’s best.

Dave Benter: We had a bad feeling when we got home that night. The next morning, it was swollen and stiff. He could put weight on it, but he couldn’t bend it. (Lawrence North) was a game that he wanted to be able to showcase himself and our team. But it was also the fourth game of the year. You don’t want to do any long-term damage.

Kevin Gwin: After the Seymour game, that next morning, we walked through and watched film. Our kids were in the dumps. More so for Jack than anything. Everything offensively runs through him. We had to adapt and adjust. Other guys were going to have different roles.

Dave Benter: We talked about what our end goal was: winning a state championship. We didn’t want to do anything that could deter our team from that. That night (against Lawrence North), we were competitive in the first half, but without (Jack) we didn’t have enough horses.

Parker Hehman: Without Jack, we were definitely underdogged. We just needed to settle down and learn some things. When you have the best player in the state on your team, you just give him the ball and he’ll bail you out. When he was out of the game, we had to learn how to move the ball, to play defense together, rebound. Other guys learned what they needed to do better, other than just giving Jack the ball, and watching him go.

Chace Coomer: We didn’t play that great that game, but it really opened our eyes. Any one of us can go out at any time. We need to be able to step up and play without certain players. No one likes to lose, obviously, but the losses helped us.

Hehman took the lead offensively against the Lawrence North, hitting six 3-pointers and scoring a season-high 24 points. Hall added 12 points and eight rebounds, but the Wildcats raced ahead by as many as 26 points before claiming a 72-47 win.

Following the loss, the Braves took solace in the fact that over the next 13 days they only had one game scheduled. Benter had a chance to get healthy.

The problem was, that one game was against Scottsburg, then the No. 2 team in Class 3A and BC’s main obstacle to a Mid Southern Conference title. Like Brownstown, Scottsburg would go on to win a state title in 2024, marking the first time ever that two Indiana state champions came from the same conference.

The Warriors travelled to Brownstown’s sold-out gym in early December with a 4-0 record and an average margin of victory of 34.2 points. Most of their starting lineup – Jack Miller, Caden Richardson, Wyatt Zellers and Kody Clancy – were former AAU teammates of Benter and Hehman. Miller, like Benter, was selected as an Indiana All Star following the season.

Dave Benter: On paper, this looked like the conference championship. We were wondering if Jack was going to be ready. He was probably 80 percent by game time. He couldn’t move well or jump. Plus, Chace Coomer was sick that whole week. He lost 10 pounds and didn’t practice until Thursday night.

Scottsburg jumped to a 15-9 first-quarter lead before Brownstown took control. The Braves’ defense held the Warriors 31 points under their season average and limited Miller to 14 points in a 51-37 win. Benter scored 19 and Hehman added 14.

Following another week of recuperation, the Braves returned the following weekend with two outstanding performances against North Harrison and Mitchell.

Against MSC foe North Harrison, Brownstown allowed just two points in each of the first two quarters while taking a 46-4 halftime lead. The Braves extended their lead to 60-4 midway through the third quarter. The game ended with BC on top, 84-27.

The next night against Mitchell, BC enjoyed another strong start, racing to a 26-3 lead. The Braves led 54-11 at halftime and won, 75-36.

Dave Benter: We were back to where we were early in the season. I really liked the way we pushed the ball, the way we passed the ball, the way we rotated. Those two teams struggled with our pace.

Coomer had his best shooting night to that point in the season against Mitchell, knocking down four 3s and scoring 12 points. Hehman added 16.

Benter stole the show, however, when he reached 2,000 points on a first-quarter 3-pointer. He became just the 71st player in Indiana boys basketball history to reach that mark.

With three consecutive wins by a combined 110 points, the Braves seemed ready to make a run in their upcoming holiday tournaments, the North Daviess Bobcat Classic and the Hall of Fame Classic. The tourneys were filled with top-ranked teams.

Brownstown’s season, however, was about to take another unexpected turn.

Against South Knox in the first round of the North Daviess tourney, the Braves again started red hot. They scored 32 points in the first quarter and had 58 by halftime. Then Benter went down for the second time in less than three weeks.

Jack Benter: It was literally the last play of the second quarter. I drove in and jumped to shoot a layup. A guy slid underneath of me. I landed on his foot and fractured the outside of my ankle.

X-rays later revealed the injury was an avulsion fracture, in which a bone fragment in Benter’s ankle was pulled from the main bone by the ligament attached to it. The injury is often treated like a sprain. Benter was forced to wear a boot to deal with the swelling.

Jack Benter: It was one of the worst pains I’ve ever felt. My ankle got really big and purple. The pain was tolerable to walk on, so I thought I’d be able to play. But when I tried to practice, and it hurt so bad I couldn’t do it.

Dave Benter: Jack came over to the bench and said, “I’ll play tomorrow night.” But when he woke up the next morning, it was obvious he was not playing. He couldn’t put weight on it. It was so swollen, he couldn’t get his shoe on.

Up by 36 at halftime, Brownstown closed out South Knox for an 86-49 win. The next night, without Benter, the Braves limited North Daviess to just 20 points and eased to a 25-point victory.

In the championship game against Class 1A No. 3-ranked Evansville Christian, however, Benter-less Brownstown found itself in a dogfight. Behind Hehman’s 22 points and Sheffer’s 15, the Braves built an 18-point second-quarter lead before EC charged back and took the lead in the fourth quarter.

Sheffer nailed a deep 3-pointer from the right side with just five seconds left to give Brownstown a two-point lead. Evansville Christian’s Josiah Dunham, however, responded by draining an off-balance, buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give EC a 58-57 win.

Dunham ended his high school career as Indiana’s No. 18 all-time scorer with 2,373 points.

Chace Coomer: We were up and I was thinking, we’re going to win this tournament. We didn’t have Jack, so this was going to be a big step forward. Then they started coming back. We came out lackadaisical in the second half and let them go on a run instead of just pounding them down and keeping them down.

Micah Sheffer: (Dunham) hit a tough shot. It’s one of the best shots I’ve seen in a game. It stunned me. That feeling kept me going all season. If we had won that game, I think we would have gotten a little bit comfortable. Sometimes you lose your killer instinct, but that loss reignited it.

Parker Hehman: That loss helped our team grow, but it wasn’t fun at the time.

The crushing defeat started the darkest period of the season for Brownstown. Over the next two weeks, on the court, the Braves dealt with Benter’s injury, watched Sheffer go down with a serious back injury and lost three of four games, two of which came after BC built big leads.

Off the court, the Benters mourned the loss of Robert Pope, Dave’s father-in-law and Jack’s grandfather, who passed away on Dec. 23.

Dave Benter: It was a tough week for us. Jack was really close to him. He was like the second man in Jack’s life.

A week later, the Braves participated in the Hall of Fame Classic in New Castle. Adam Stahl filled in for the injured Benter and helped his team pick up one of its best wins of the season, a 56-48 victory over Brownsburg, a Class 4A team that ended the season 13th in the Sagarin Ratings.

Stahl finished with nine points and eight rebounds. Hall had 14 points and 10 rebounds. Coomer scored a season-high 15 points.

Unfortunately for the Braves, the win once again came at a price. While scrambling for a loose ball, Sheffer hit the floor and felt immediate pain.

Micah Sheffer: We were in a 1-3-1 with Colby at the head of it. I was at the wing. A (Brownsburg player) broke through and Colby back-tipped the ball. I dove on the floor and a Brownsburg guy got me in my lower back. I played the rest of that game, but could barely run up and down the floor. It turned out to be a compression lumbar fracture in my L2 and L3.

Dave Benter: We thought it was just back spasms. He finished that game, but he could hardly walk. Micah’s a tough kid. We found out afterwards that he had two broken bones in his back. Just a very freak thing. You don’t see that kind of injury in basketball.

With Benter out and Sheffer hobbled, the Braves kept up with Indianapolis Attucks only for a half in the second game of the HoF tournament. An entertaining back-and-forth second quarter highlighted the game and kept BC within six at halftime. Attucks, however, outscored Brownstown 28-5 in the third quarter and pulled away to a 76-51 win, despite a 22-point effort from Hall.

After limping gamely through the Attucks game, Sheffer was sidelined for four weeks, missing the Braves’ next eight games.

As the injuries and losses accumulated, even the head coach felt the pangs of doubt.

Dave Benter: We had these high expectations. All of a sudden, you’re starting to question, is this really going to happen? It was a tough few weeks for me from a personal standpoint but also professionally. Not just because of Jack’s injury and dealing with that as a dad. You see how hard your players work. To go through it with Micah and then (later in the season) to go through it with Colby. That’s tough.

A week later, the Braves travelled to Jennings County for the season’s “darkest before the dawn” moment. The game, like the Evansville Christian loss two weeks earlier, started with BC building what appeared to be an insurmountable lead.

Benter returned to the lineup after missing four games. Despite being on a “pitch count” that limited him to 20 minutes of action, he finished with 21 points. Benter, Hehman and Coomer put on a shooting clinic to open the second half, making five consecutive 3-pointers and spurring a 17-2 run that pushed BC in front, 51-32, with 4:02 left in the third quarter.

Then the wheels came off.

Over the game’s next 11 minutes, Jennings outscored Brownstown 29-2. The shooting clinic ended as quickly as it started as BC missed 15 consecutive 3-point shots. The inside tandem of Stahl and Hall got into foul trouble, closing off inside scoring opportunities.

Behind 30 points from Carter Kent, Hehman and Benter’s former AAU teammate, Jennings claimed an improbable 69-61 win.

Parker Hehman: I don’t know if we touched inside the lane the whole game. Going back and watching that game, it was not good by any of us. It almost felt helpless. We couldn’t make a shot. There were a lot of great things that happened throughout last season, but that loss was probably the thing that sticks out the most for me.

Chace Coomer: We don’t live and die by the three, but that night we did. We just didn’t execute inside enough. We needed to pound the ball inside. That was on everybody. Maybe a different game plan would have helped, similar to the Evansville Christian game.

Dave Benter: There are a thousand things I would have done differently as a coach. We got a couple of tough whistles, had some foul trouble. Jack was limited. We played poorly. But I really

think that was the turning point. Looking back, that’s probably the best thing that could have happened.

Jack Benter: They got really hot. I don’t know if they missed in the fourth quarter. But it really taught Parker, me, and Colby, everybody, that you can’t settle. It helped us get more motivation for the rest of the season. I don’t think we lost a game after that.

Pierson Wheeler: Nothing was good about that game, but it made us grow as a team. We built off that loss. It made us tougher.

Parker Hehman: You want to learn from wins, but when you learn from a loss, it means a lot more. After taking that loss, knowing how that felt, nobody wanted to feel that again. I think that helped us a lot, even though it didn’t feel like it at the time.

With the loss, the Braves slipped to No. 7 in the AP poll, their lowest ranking of the season.

The night after the Jennings debacle, the schedule only got more difficult when Jeffersonville came to Brownstown. With two Indiana Junior All Stars in their lineup (Tre Singleton and Michael Cooper), the Red Devils later reached the Final Four of the Class 4A state tournament.

Brownstown, however, never gave Jeff a chance. The Braves rebounded from the Jennings loss with one of their best games of the season. Benter scored 28 and Stahl had a season-high 15 as BC built an early double-digit lead and maintained that advantage throughout.

Dave Benter: Adam Stahl had the game of his life. Jack played well. We controlled the whole game. We never let them make a run on us. We never felt threatened by them. I felt we were the better team throughout the night.

Kevin Gwin: Adam Stahl played really well. We defended really well in that game. (Jeffersonville’s) got two junior All-Stars. I mean, they’re talented. After what happened the night before, following up with a win was a pretty pleasing result.

Chace Coomer: After the Jennings loss, we needed to win that game. Not just win it. We needed to make it not even close. And we did.

The victory over Jeffersonville started a remarkable 19-game winning streak that carried the Braves all the way to the state title.

The following weekend, Brownstown trounced Mid Southern Conference foe Silver Creek, 82-54, and then travelled to Carmel to take on the blue-blooded Greyhounds.

Entering the contest with an uncharacteristically modest 4-8 record, Carmel appeared to be having a down season. After Brownstown’s visit, however, the Greyhounds won eight of their next nine games, including beating two undefeated No. 1 teams (eventual 4A state champion Fishers and Lawrence North) in a six-day span. The late-season surge lifted Carmel to 10th in the final Sagarin Ratings.

On a snowy January night, the Greyhounds and Braves put on a classic battle that featured 13 lead changes. Two late Benter free throws sent the game into overtime before Pierson Wheeler came off the bench to make three of four foul shots in the final 30 seconds to clinch the victory.

Pierson Wheeler: Parker and Jack were on the bench telling me what to do. Calm down, just relax and play. They helped me through it.

Parker Hehman: It’s really hard to win on the road at Carmel. Pulling that out, after everything that had happened, really meant a lot.

Colby Hall: Carmel’s worst team is still going to be hard to beat at Carmel. They’re going to be physical. They’re going to be tough. It’s going to be a tough gym to play in. We went there knowing that, and we just played hard. We were able to get the win.

Dave Benter: Everybody told me you don’t win at Carmel. At that time, they had a losing record, but you’re still going to the biggest school in the state at their place. Jack still couldn’t jump. Micah was out. Parker fouled out in regulation. Jack fouled out (in overtime). Pierson stepped up and made huge free throws late. That really gave our subs a confidence boost. The way Adam had played the week before, the way Pierson and Greg had played that night. Lane Pendleton was starting to get some minutes for us. I really think that helped us in the long run.

After missing the Lawrence North, Brownsburg and Attucks games, the Carmel contest was the first, and only, Indianapolis “big school” game Benter got to play in, making his 35-point performance and the team’s win more satisfying.

Because of the snow that night, the bus ride home from northern Indianapolis was slow and arduous. What Dave Benter saw when his team arrived back at the high school re-enforced his belief in his team and the direction it was headed.

Dave Benter: It was after midnight and us coaches went into my office to talk. When we came out about 15 minutes later, our whole varsity team was still in the locker room. They were just sitting around, talking. None of our guys wanted to go home. They enjoyed being around each other. That kind of summarized our team in a nutshell.

The Carmel victory amplified the positive vibes generated by the Jeffersonville win. Over its final nine regular-season games, Brownstown was unstoppable.

The Braves hammered Bedford North Lawrence by 22, New Albany by 24, Orleans by 31, Greensburg by 36 and Columbus East by 44. They formally clinched the MSC title by trampling through their remaining league games, crushing Eastern (Pekin) and Charlestown by 39, Austin by 48 and Corydon by 50.

Pierson Wheeler: Winning is the best thing there is. We just kept winning and we knew we could keep winning. We knew no one could beat us but us.

Micah Sheffer: We were winning night after night. Once you break through, that’s your new minimum. We kept building and breaking through new barriers every night. We knew that if we kept playing like this, we would become state champs.

Chace Coomer: We were in our groove. We were all doing our part, playing defense as hard as we could, giving our bodies. We didn’t want to let the community down. We wanted to keep going.

Jack Benter: When we’d get hot like that, it was a little scary for the other team. We were shooting the ball and playing well as a team. Even in the bigger games, we knew we were going to win. That was our mentality going into every game.

Colby Hall: Once we finally got healthy, we were like, all right, we can do it now, we can start rolling. We can finally relax and just play.

After dipping to seventh in the AP poll in early January, Brownstown’s relentless and merciless win streak steadily won over the state’s voters. In the season’s final poll, BC, for the first time all season, occupied the No. 1 spot.

The Braves were heading into the postseason as the top-ranked Class 2A team in Indiana. The No. 2 team? Wapahani.

Part VII: The Road to Indianapolis

The Braves ended the regular season with a 21-4 record and were ready to test the theory that tough scheduling is the best way to prepare for the postseason.

Brownstown was assigned to the Southwestern Sectional, the only Class 2A tournament in the state with three Top 10-ranked teams (No. 1 BC, No. 4 Providence and No. 7 Southwestern). When the sectional draw was announced on Feb. 18, BC’s bracket path required it to beat the other two ranked squads to advance to the regional.

On the tournament’s first night, the Braves’ season took yet another turn.

Playing Henryville, Hall went down with a severely sprained ankle just 90 seconds into the game. Along with Hehman, the junior had been the team’s mainstay, having started all 25 games to that point.

Colby Hall: I was trying to block a shot, came down and just hit the edge of (a Henryville player’s) foot. My ankle rolled and instantly swelled up. It was a high ankle sprain. It swelled so fast, I got these blisters on it and those blisters got an infection. It was a double whammy. I’ve broken bones before and this was worse. I might have been better off to break it.

Chace Coomer: He might hate me for saying this, but when we were little, me and Colby, we were big babies. When I saw him limp off the floor, I was like, he’s fine. I’ve rolled an ankle before, too. But this was different. When he came out (of the locker room) on crutches, it hit me that this was serious and Colby could be out for a while.

Kevin Gwin: We came in at halftime and we were all sick to our stomach. I remember Jack was right in front of me and he said something like, “Are you kidding me? Here we go again.” Everyone was frustrated. The coaching staff got together and Dave said, “We’ve been here. It sucks. It’s not good for Colby, but we’ve got to work to do.”

Even without Hall, Brownstown faced little resistance from Henryville. Benter scored 27 and Sheffer added 10. Reserve Lane Pendleton came off the bench to score 14 and sent a charge through the crowd in the third quarter when his alley-oop pass to Benter resulted in a thunderous dunk.

As Hall and his parents traversed the state looking for medical advice to rehabilitate his ankle, the Braves were compelled by the tournament schedule to move on. Though considered the team’s “sixth man,” Stahl had already started 15 of the Braves’ 26 games at that point in the season. His importance to the team in Hall’s absence only magnified.

Brownstown’s semifinal opponent was tournament host Southwestern, a 21-3 team that entered the game with 11 wins in its previous 12 games.

In what became an odd trend throughout the tournament, the Braves’ caught a strategic break from their opponent. When the semifinal matchup tipped off, Southwestern came out in a collapsing zone defense seemingly intent on protecting the lane.

Afforded space by the Rebels’ defense, BC happily took advantage. Benter made six 3-pointers while Coomer had four. In all, the Braves made 17 3s, built a 10-point lead within the game’s first six minutes and cruised to a 73-49 win.

Dave Benter: That Southwestern team was one of the better teams in their school’s history, but we played really well that night. Their zone gave us good looks from three-point range. We shot 47 field goals and only nine of them were twos.

Pierson Wheeler: I think this was the game where we built the most momentum. Everyone thought it would be a close game, since it was at their place. But we hit every shot. That game built us back up (after losing Hall) and got us going.

Kevin Gwin: Southwestern wasn’t capable of playing at our pace. They just weren’t used to it. That’s the thing about our team. We come at you in waves. There was no time that you could catch your breath. It was just a constant wave.

The semifinal victory set up a much-anticipated showdown with Providence in the final. After losing the season opener to Brownstown, the Pioneers won their next 10 games in a row and climbed as high as No. 3 in the AP poll. They entered the championship game with an eight-game win streak and hoped to thwart Benter and Brownstown’s fast-paced offense with a combination of physical defense and slow half-court offense.

Once again, the opponent’s strategy may have helped Brownstown. Still learning to play without Hall, Providence’s slow pace took pressure off of the Braves.

Early on, the Pioneers showed they were all in on their slow-it-down strategy. On their first possession, they ran three minutes off the clock. When the first-quarter buzzer sounded, the two teams had a combined five points with BC leading 3-2.

Adam Stahl: I was like, come on, can we play basketball, please? I’m pretty sure I was thinking what everyone was thinking. Those are the times you wish that high school had a shot clock.

Dave Benter: They didn’t even look at the goal the first couple of minutes. They were obviously just holding the basketball. The big thing was we couldn’t let them get an early lead on us. Even without Colby, we felt, from top to bottom, not only were we as good as them defensively, but we were much better offensively. We thought, over 32 minutes, we would be able to show that.

Jack Benter’s scoring ability was the counter to Providence’s strategy. Essentially, Brownstown challenged the Pioneers’ defense to find a way to stop one of the top scorers in Indiana history. If the Braves could get even a slight lead, Providence would be forced to play at a faster pace.

Kevin Gwin: In a game like that, when you’re up 8 to 10 points, that’s like 20 to 25 in a normal game.

Benter accepted his assignment and looked to create scoring opportunities for himself. He kept the ball in his hands on five of the Braves’ first six possessions of the second quarter and single-handedly outscored Providence 8-2 during that stretch.

On the other end of the floor, BC’s defense stifled the Pioneers’ offense. By the middle of the second period, the Braves owned an 11-4 lead. By halftime, after a Hutcheson layup, the score was 18-5.

Brownstown maintained a double-digit lead nearly all of the second half. As Providence’s prospects dimmed, its fouls became harder and more frequent. The Pioneers were whistled for 26 fouls (compared to BC’s 14) and the Braves’ last 15 points came at the foul line.

Benter finished with 32 points as the Braves claimed the sectional title with a 53-37 win.

Jack Benter: It was the most physical game I think I’ve ever played in. I don’t know how to describe it. Getting a little separation was our focus. We knew they were going to come in and slow the game down, so if we could take advantage of our offensive possessions and get a lead on them, they would have to speed up. It’s always good to beat Providence.

Greg Hutcheson: We started scoring and getting stops and they couldn’t hold the ball anymore. Once they were playing at our pace, it was pretty much over. We were able to play both at their slow pace and at our fast pace.

Dave Benter: One of the bigger things I’ve learned is you can’t just play one style. You’ve got to be able to play different styles. We felt that we had a mentally tough team that could handle a grind-it-out game. We play teams like Seymour and Providence. They’re going to slow it down and be physical. You’ve got to be able to handle that from a mental, as much as a physical, standpoint. If you don’t, they’ll break you.

The victory over Providence gave Brownstown its third consecutive sectional crown. To win a second straight regional, the Braves would have to get past Sullivan, the winner of the Paoli Sectional.

Ranked 15th in the final AP poll of the regular season, Sullivan was a heavy underdog to Brownstown. When the two teams met in the venerable Hatchet House at Washington High School, the on-paper predictions became on-court reality.

The Braves jumped in front quickly, built a 32-point lead and breezed to a 67-41 victory.

The main drama in the week leading to the regional was illness. Strep and the flu descended on the Braves, including Sheffer. While the outcome against Sullivan wasn’t affected, Brownstown’s coaches couldn’t help but stress over who may be affected next.

Dave Benter: We felt if we controlled ourselves that we were going to be fine, but with the luck we’d had with injuries and illness throughout the year, you never know. You start worrying, is that going to go through the rest of the team?

The answer came midway through the following week as the team prepared for the Southport Semistate.

Dave Benter: On Wednesday, Jack had a great practice, but by that night he had spiked a fever. We took him to the doctor on Thursday. He said it was viral, there was nothing they can do, but he should feel better by Saturday. We went to Southport to practice on Thursday. Jack didn’t go. On Friday, he still had a fever and he threw up a couple of times. He got an IV. He came in and shot for 15 minutes, then his fever spiked back up. He woke up Saturday, he was throwing up and still had a fever.

Jack Benter: I had the same symptoms everybody else did. I’m under the weather. Colby is just coming back, he’s still hurt. We all knew it was going to be a tough one. Park Tudor is a really good team. They played a bunch of teams up in Indy who were good. They were a lot more athletic and physical than what they showed on film. It’s already hard to play games sick, but the physicality and athleticism they had made it ten times worse.

The good news for Brownstown was Hall’s effort to treat his ankle over the previous two weeks yielded results. While the 6-foot-6 junior’s fitness was questionable due to limited practice time, he was nevertheless available for spot duty if needed.

Hall’s “spot duty” turned into 26 minutes of pressure-packed playing time when the contest with Park Tudor became a rock fight.

Dave Benter: Every coach tells you during championship runs, there’s one game that you’ve just got to get through. Park Tudor was our game. They’re athletic and if you’re not at 100 percent, they will give you problems.

Kevin Gwin: I never, ever in the course of that game felt that we were in control. If Colby hadn’t played as well as he did in that game …

Hall, in his first action in over two weeks, scored seven points, grabbed four rebounds and hit a key free throw for the Braves.

Park Tudor led the game through the first quarter before Brownstown asserted itself. The Braves took a lead in the second quarter, growing it to nine points, and held on until the fourth quarter. The Panthers turned up the defensive pressure and started making a comeback.

Dave Benter: Jack, Colby and Parker, those three guys were gassed by the end of the game. Park Tudor’s athleticism and pressure bothered us. They got to us late in the game.

Kevin Gwin: I’d be hard-pressed to think of any team we’ve played that could put pressure on the ball like they did. They had a couple of elite defenders.

Park Tudor’s full-court pressure forced 11 turnovers, two of which helped the Panthers erase BC’s four-point lead with less than three minutes left. With the game tied, Benter found Hall, who was fouled underneath the basket. Hall made one of two free throws to give the Braves a 50-49 lead with 91 seconds remaining.

In another strategic break for the Braves, the Panthers then chose to hold the ball for the last shot, inadvertently aiding Brownstown’s fatigued players.

Kevin Gwin: We were on the ropes. By holding the ball, number one, they let us catch our breath. Number two, they let us regroup mentally. It was crazy. If they had kept playing at that pace, I really think we would have coughed it up a couple of times. It would have been hard for us to hold on.

After working the clock, Park Tudor called two timeouts, the first with seven seconds left, the second with four seconds remaining. Certain that Park Tudor would draw up a play for their leading scorer, Hudson Horvath, who had 21 points, Dave Benter threw a curve at the Panthers.

Dave Benter: We went to a zone for the first time in a while. We had Parker, who’s a really good defender, up top and we had a 6-5 guy (Coomer) chasing (Horvath). The only way we were going to lose that game was if they hit a crazy shot, which happened against Evansville Christian early in the year, so you never know.

Chace Coomer: I remember walking back on the court. There were 3.7 seconds left. I’ll never forget this. I said to myself, “If he’s going to hit this shot, it’s not going to be on me. If God’s going to let them win this game, just don’t let it be on me.” I didn’t want to carry that.

As anticipated, Horvath got the ball and launched a desperation shot just before the buzzer sounded.

Chace Coomer: When they came out, (Horvath) pulled up right over me. You could feel the air get sucked out of the gym. I was thinking, this could be the end to it all.

Pierson Wheeler: It was definitely nerve-wracking. It was like a movie. The shot seemed like it was in slow-mo.

Greg Hutcheson: I kept looking at the clock and the score, thinking, just a couple more minutes, hold on. When they put that last shot up, it was like seeing your life flash before your eyes. You get all those memories of the season, how much work you put in.

Kevin Gwin: I had a good view when it left his hand. I knew it wasn’t going to go in. Marty (Young) always sits next to me when we’re sitting on the bench, and I’ll always say, that has a chance, or not. That one didn’t look like it was going in.

As the ball travelled to the rim, Coomer noticed Hall underneath the basket.

Chace Coomer: When (Horvath) shot it, Colby was on the block and he knew there was no chance it was going in. During the summer, we lost to Noblesville on a last-second tip-in. Colby said as soon as he saw it wasn’t going in, he turned and hit his man as hard as he could and boxed out. That’s why we played our summer schedule.

Gwin and Hall’s intuition was correct. Horvath’s shot was wide to the left, allowing Brownstown to escape.

Dave Benter: I think our guys knew they had dodged a bullet.

Colby Hall: There was a little anxiousness there. Everyone was relieved.

Dulled by illness, Benter was limited to a season-low 12 points, but still grabbed nine rebounds and handed out 10 assists. Following the game, he went back to his IV and rested.

His fever broke between games.

That night, against Parke Heritage in the semistate final, Benter made his first four 3-point attempts, scored 26 points in the first half and had 38 for the game, his career-high in tournament games. The Braves earned a trip to the state championship with a 66-56 win.

Dave Benter: Jack put us on his back offensively. But this game came down to leadership. We did not defend very well the first half. I called timeout and Jack and Parker were absolutely laying it to our guys. Jack was screaming, “We have to guard. Get your hands up. We are not guarding people.” Parker was saying, “We’ve got to have our hands up and make them drive.” Those two dominated the timeout. We shored up some things defensively, got control of the game and were able to keep it anywhere from eight to 15 the rest of the way.

Chace Coomer: In the third, fourth quarter, we realized this is over. We’re going to state. Some people said, you guys didn’t seem too excited when you were going to state. We were (excited), but with all that pressure on us, it was more relief than excitement.

With the Park Tudor victory, the Braves survived the kind of challenge they couldn’t defeat two years earlier against Beech Grove. Two years of effort and preparation had paid off. The ultimate goal was now in sight.

Part VIII: State

When Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis was selected to host a 2024 NCAA men’s basketball tournament regional in late March, the IHSAA was forced to push its boys basketball championship games back one week. The new date created a two-week gap between the tourney’s semistate and final rounds.

For Brownstown Central, the extra week was a godsend. The sick and the injured, meaning much of the team’s roster, had an extra week to convalesce while the coaching staff prepared for BC’s final opponent, Wapahani, a talented team from the Muncie area that emerged from the tournament’s northern brackets.

Dave Benter: The two weeks were fantastic for us. We gave (the players) that whole weekend off. By that last week, our guys had really locked into Wapahani. Jack was back to 100 percent better. Micah at this point was back. Colby still wasn’t there. His ankle was still swelling. But we came out probably the healthiest we could possibly be at that point.

Chace Coomer: I was thankful we had two weeks because we had battled sickness, injury, and everything. That first week, we didn’t have a great week of practice. You could tell as soon as that second week kicked in, everybody was locked in.

Wapahani owned an impressive 26-2 record and was led by Isaac Andrews, a Grand Park Premier teammate of Jack Benter, and, like Benter, an Indiana All-Star selection at the end of the season.

The Raiders’ appearance in the championship game was no surprise. Along with Tipton, Wapahani spent more weeks at No. 1 in the Class 2A AP poll (six) than any other team and never dipped below the No. 4 spot.

Dave Benter: Last summer, Jeff Andrews, Isaac Andrews’ dad, said to me, “We’ll be seeing you guys in the state championship next year.” We knew they had a good team. I’ve known Coach (Matt) Luce for a while. His teams are really disciplined. When you watch them play on film, they have good team chemistry.

If any coaching staff was constructed to prepare a team for a state championship, it was Brownstown’s. Benter and Gwin had lived through and learned from the Braves’ state final losses in 2004 and 2009. Assistant coaches Marty Young (2004) and Michael Leitzman (2009) had played in those games and provided valuable perspective.

Being experienced, of course, doesn’t mean there’s nothing new to learn. Shortly after the Braves’ semistate win, Benter received, and adopted, a tip from Brandon Hoffman, who coached Silver Creek to titles in 2019 and 2021 (and likely would have in 2020 had the tournament not been cancelled).

Dave Benter: Brandon had a really good suggestion: practice the TV timeouts.

Kevin Gwin: (Hoffman) said you need to scrimmage with officials and you need to play everything like it’s a four-minute segment. Play four minutes, sit for two minutes, then go back and finish the next four minutes to finish out the quarter. That was very beneficial. The first time we were (at the state final in 2004), I remember we were not accustomed to the TV timeouts.

Dave Benter: We brought in two officials and had our scout team scrimmage our varsity. We broke the scrimmage into four-minute segments with TV timeouts. The scout team ran through all of Wapahani’s offense sets. Basically, we played Wapahani a week early. We talked to our guys about how long those timeouts are, that you’ve got to stay focused. That was good for us.

Colby Hall: We worked on different defenses against their plays, we had media timeouts. It was pretty realistic. It helped get you in the rhythm of the media timeouts.

Studying Wapahani, Brownstown’s coaches came to an ironically pleasant realization: Like the Braves two years earlier, Wapahani played a really good Class 2A schedule, but not necessarily a championship one.

Dave Benter: They had not played as good a schedule as us. We felt we were by far the best team they’d played all year.

As they game-planned, BC’s coaches saw the Raiders as a more offensively talented Providence team. They could score points and had good shooters, but they weren’t in a rush.

Dave Benter: Wapahani was very good, but they were also deliberate. Not as deliberate as Providence, Orleans or Seymour. They were better offensively than those teams. We felt the more possessions in the game, the better for us. We made the decision that we were going to do whatever we could to try speeding them up.

By playing at a faster pace, Benter also hoped to avoid a slow start like the one that hurt the 2004 team in the state finals. Boasting a high-powered offense, the ’04 team was limited to 10 points in the first 15 minutes of the championship game against a disciplined Jimtown defense.

When the 2024 Braves took the floor for the Class 2A championship, concerns about a slow start disappeared immediately.

Benter won the opening tip, then quickly made a jumper in the lane. Hall followed with a layup off a Benter assist. Coomer knocked down a 3-pointer. Then he hit another. Sheffer added a fast-break layup off a turnover.

When the game’s first four-minute segment was over and the first media timeout arrived, the Braves had a 12-3 lead.

Kevin Gwin: I watched Chase in warmups before the game and he wasn’t hitting anything. I thought, “Oh boy.” Then he hit those threes at the start of the game. He helped everybody get settled.

Chace Coomer: We came out and played our best basketball. It was amazing to get up on them early because you could tell some players on our team were feeling the pressure a little bit. That just took everything off everybody.

Pierson Wheeler: We’d been waiting two weeks to play. We came out full throttle and played as hard as we could. We overpowered them throughout the game.

Jack Benter: We were running from the jump in that game just to try to speed them up. Wapahani is a really good team. They’re one of those teams that plays slow, but they can also put a lot of points on the board fast. If we got down eight or 10 points, they would have slowed the game down, and then it would be tough to come back. But we scored on the first possession, and they had to play a little bit faster, which played into our hands.

Parker Hehman: Getting a lead early was one of the keys to the game. This was not a game you wanted to play from behind, as slow as they play on offense. Getting a lead early really helped us set the tone.

Coomer nailed another 3-pointer in the second quarter while Benter scored 16 first-half points. The Braves built a 19-point lead and the rout appeared to be on.

Down 31-14 at halftime, Wapahani found its footing in the third quarter. The Raiders outscored Brownstown 14-3 to start the second half, cutting the lead to six. Sheffer stopped the bleeding for BC by hitting a layup, followed by two Benter free throws.

Wapahani again cut BC’s lead under 10 early in the fourth quarter when Benter authored the game’s most memorable play.

Double teamed by Raider defenders Eli Andrews and Camden Bell on the block in front of Brownstown’s bench, Benter looked over his left shoulder and spied Sheffer alone on the opposite side. Without changing position, Benter delivered a 30-foot cross-court behind-the-back bounce pass to Sheffer, perfectly feeding the ball into the sophom*ore’s shooting stance.

While the crowd audibly gasped, Sheffer never hesitated. He swished the open 3-pointer and restored the Braves’ double-digit lead. The game was never closer than 10 points the rest of the way.

Micah Sheffer: Colby was setting a screen and my (defender) was helping on him. If they jumped out on me, Jack would have hit Colby right there. But I’ve played with Jack enough to know that he saw me, and I saw that he saw me. I threw up a hand to him. I was expecting a hook pass, but he went behind the back. I was like, holy cow. I caught it in rhythm and the rest is history. For other people, it’s ridiculous but that’s normal for Jack.

Jack Benter: They were on a pretty big run. We needed a bucket. We hadn’t scored forever. I caught it down there. Micah was the only one open because Colby dove to the basket and they had (Colby’s) guy and Micah’s guy on (Colby). I couldn’t throw a normal pass. The only way I could throw it was behind my back. I really didn’t think about it twice. It ended up working out. I’m confident in my passing ability. I feel like that’s one of my best attributes. I always try to get a pass to someone in their shooting pocket. That was tough to do on that pass, but it went right in Micah’s shooting pocket. That play got all our momentum back. It sucked the life out of them.

Chace Coomer: I was on the right wing. I remember Jack looked at me and I thought, he’s going to throw to me. I was getting ready, then he bounce-passed it to Micah. I want to see my face in that moment because I’m sure it was a jaw-drop. I was thinking, Micah better hit this shot and then he nailed it. That was the play. There was no way we were going to lose after that.

Greg Hutcheson: We were sitting (on the bench) and saw (Jack) was getting double-teamed. We were yelling, “Pass it out, pass it out!” Then we saw him throw it behind his back and were like, what’s he doing? And then we saw Sheffer catch it and shoot the three. It was unreal. He’s tried that a few times in practice, but never as good as that.

The Braves closed out the game, winning 55-36. With 29 seconds left in the game, Dave Benter subbed out his starters, including his son. The two Benters hugged on the sideline as Jack left the floor.

Dave Benter: When I took him out, I told him, “You are now a state champion. I’m so proud of you.” There were so many thoughts going through my mind, knowing that would be the last time I’d get to coach him. Coaching him back at five years old, all the AAU trips and workout trips, the workouts at home. It was a lot of emotion. I was happy for the Brownstown community, too, because they had waited a long time for this.

Jack Benter: It was a really special moment. He worked really hard for that moment, to win a state championship. He was close two times. To win one with him meant a lot to me. To help him win his first one, and to win one in my last year with all the guys I grew up playing with, that was a really cool experience.

After the final horn, the Benters and Hehman were pressed into media duties. The rest of the team returned to the locker room to begin soaking in the moment.

Dave Benter: We got back to the locker room and the guys doused me in water. It was freezing. I barely talked to the guys and then they came and rushed me, Jack and Parker to the press conference.

Chace Coomer: We all got to the locker room and jumped around. I really appreciated the moment because it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Micah Sheffer: It was so much fun. It’s something that I had dreamed about ever since I was little. My goal was to win a state championship with Jack and Parker and those guys. Hitting those shots, it was really a dream come true. A lot of great players put in a bunch of hard work, but never get the satisfaction of winning a state championship. I’m blessed to be on a great team.

Caiden Gwin: It was something we’d been working towards for a long time. To finally accomplished it meant a lot. My dad was excited as well. He’s been coaching for a long time. This was something he and the other coaches had been working for.

Parker Hehman: It was like a sigh of relief. Walking back in the locker room, knowing that we did it, it felt like a weight coming off your shoulders.

Adam Stahl: We won state, so of course I was happy, but I was also kind of sad that basketball was ending for me.

The security team at Gainbridge Fieldhouse prevented lingering Brownstown fans from seeing and celebrating with the team at the arena, so a rally was organized back at Brownstown’s gym. Net-cutting was also denied at Gainbridge, so the nets were brought back from Indianapolis and mounted on the rims in BC’s gym to allow players to cut down the nets.

A celebratory fire truck ride was planned in Brownstown, but Seymour’s Fire Department also got involved, meeting the Braves’ bus at the interstate and escorting the team along Tipton Street to the western edge of town. Brownstown FD took over from there.

Dave Benter: In Seymour, people were honking at us. Back in Brownstown, the atmosphere was crazy. The gym was packed. (On the fire truck route) the big area is down on Hwy 50 by People’s Bank. There was a huge crowd there.

Greg Hutcheson: When we got back to (the high school), it looked like there was a game going on. The whole parking lot was filled.

Kevin Gwin: Playing early in the day (the Class 2A championship was played at 1 p.m.) made it more special because more people had a chance to come out. The community support has been phenomenal. It’s been like a year-long party, selling out the games and sticking with us. It’s been pretty cool.

Pierson Wheeler: Our community was there the whole time. They’d go to all the games, even against Austin and Salem. They’d showed up to watch us cut down nets. They were there for us, for the whole ride.

Chace Coomer: You realize that we accomplished something huge that most teams will never accomplish. It was bittersweet, seeing Jack and Parker and Caiden and Stahl leave. Some of the biggest guys in Brownstown history just walked out the door.

Jack Benter: To win state is a cool accomplishment. I know it’s not single class anymore, but there’s only four teams that won. It was cool to experience ending on a win on the biggest stage

Great Expectations: Oral history of Brownstown Central’s state title run in 2023-24 - Seymour Tribune (2024)

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Name: Catherine Tremblay

Birthday: 1999-09-23

Address: Suite 461 73643 Sherril Loaf, Dickinsonland, AZ 47941-2379

Phone: +2678139151039

Job: International Administration Supervisor

Hobby: Dowsing, Snowboarding, Rowing, Beekeeping, Calligraphy, Shooting, Air sports

Introduction: My name is Catherine Tremblay, I am a precious, perfect, tasty, enthusiastic, inexpensive, vast, kind person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.