By GREG MENGELT
A year ago, Borden went into the Class A Loogootee Regional on top of the world.
The Braves were coming off their best regular season in school history, in which they compiled a 19-1 record.
The regular season also included a 46-40 home win over Orleans on Jan. 27, 2012.
The Braves went on to win their third sectional in five years — beating Lanesville, Rock Creek Academy and South Central by a combined 52 points.
They were flying high. A regional championship wasn’t a goal. It was an expectation.
Early on against Orleans in the Loogootee Regional semifinals, it looked like Borden’s run would continue. The Braves led the 18-6 Bulldogs 14-8 after one quarter.
In a matter of minutes, the whole thing fell apart. All of the wins, the Southern Athletic Conference title, the sectional championship — none of it seemed to matter as Orleans outscored Borden 60-34 the rest of the way.
“We’re still a little bitter about it,” said Braves’ senior Cody Bachman, who didn’t get to play in the game because of a broken leg. “There’s definitely a little bad blood.”
Still, the Braves insist that beating Orleans and avenging last year’s loss isn’t the motivation for the weekend. This is a Borden program that has accomplished too much over the past six years to let another program control it that way.
“I think they’ve grown up a lot since then,” Borden coach Doc Nash said. “I don’t know what their mindset is. I hope they’re just hungry to get another win and get another six hours to win another game.”
In 2008, Borden won its first sectional championship in school history. It followed it up a week later with its first regional crown, including a 46-42 win over Orleans in the title game.
The current Braves remember that team. Being like that team is what motivates them.
“It would mean a lot for us, not only to avenge [last year’s] loss, but to go on with our dreams of going to state,” Borden senior Jalen McCoy said.
“One of our goals is to win state and to get to state we have to beat Orleans,” fellow Braves senior Billy Kirchgessner added.
To win the 2013 Loogootee Regional, Class A No. 10 Borden (20-3) will have to get past Orleans — in a 10:30 a.m. start on Saturday — then take down the winner of Barr-Reeve (23-1) and Northeast Dubois (12-12), who meet in the second semifinal.
The Braves can’t afford to make it a grudge match with Orleans.
“Once you get to this point, you just want to win, no matter who [the opponent] is,” Bachman said. “We’re more focused on personnel than the name. We’re just trying to go out and get the win.”
And, as always, that won’t be easy. The Bulldogs enter the regional at 13-10 after beating Springs Valley 46-32 to win its 10th sectional championship in 19 years.
The Bulldogs opened the season 7-1 before a 1-8 stretch that included a six-game losing streak and a 37-36 home loss to Borden. Obviously, this isn’t the best Bulldog team ever, but it’s a program that’s proven it can win big games.
Orleans still has Trey Bradley — one of the players most responsible for burying the Braves a year ago.
“I don’t look at records. I look at personnel,” Nash said. “Records can be deceiving.”
A win over Orleans would likely put the Bulldogs against Class A No. 3 Barr-Reeve in the championship game. The Vikings, who have been to the state final three times, including twice in the past six seasons, are as talented as ever.
Most of the Braves said they haven’t had time to consider the Vikings or the Jeeps.
“We’re trying to take it one game at a time,” Borden senior Michael Lynch said.
“It doesn’t matter who we play. Coach will get us prepared,” McCoy said.
A few Braves got a chance to watch the Vikings play over the holidays at the Graber Post Classic at North Daviess. It was hard not to be impressed by their size and skill, led by sophomore Addison Wagler, who is averaging 14.4 points and seven rebounds, and freshman Logan James, who leads the Vikings in assists.
“They’re as good as their record,” Nash said. “It would be a tough task. We’ll be ready if we get the opportunity.”
“They slow the ball down and take care of the ball,” Kirchgessner evaluated. “They’re disciplined, they take good shots. They’re really good.”
Northeast Dubois struggled early in the year, starting 3-9 before rallying to go 8-2 in their final 10 games, including four straight wins.
“They struggled early on and have gotten a ton better,” Nash said. “They’ve been playing a lot better as of late.”
In the end, the one player who wasn’t around the last time Borden won a sectional championship may understand the situation the most.
Bachman transferred to Borden from Christian Academy after his freshman year. He seems to understand just what another regional title would mean to Borden and its players.
“I didn’t come here until 2010. When I got here, all I heard about was the ‘08 and ‘09 teams,” Bachman said. “People still talk about them like they’re heroes or gods around here. We definitely feel a little pressure because we want to do that, too. It would be cool if people talked about us like that, too.”
LOOGOOTEE REGIONAL STAFF PERSPECTIVES
Kevin Harris, Sports Reporter: “I’m confident the Braves will find a way to knock off Orleans in the semifinals. Unlike the regular-season matchup that took place at Orleans, playing on a neutral court should benefit Borden. But if the Braves play Barr-Reeve in the final, they will face a stiff challenge against a Vikings team that ranks third in the state in scoring defense. I’m a firm believer that defense wins championships, so I think Barr-Reeve comes out on top on Saturday night.”
Matt Koesters, News Reporter: “Last year, Borden beat Orleans in the regular season and took a drubbing at the hands of the Bulldogs at the Loogootee Regional. But that’s in the past, and this year’s Orleans team has taken a step back. If the Braves don’t let the big-game atmosphere get to them, they can play on Saturday night.”
Mike Riley, Sports Correspondent: “Look for Borden to handle Orleans fairly easily in the opener then defeat the Barr-Reeve Vikings in the final. Barr-Reeve’s only loss this season was to Loogootee, who they then defeated to win the sectional, thus knocking out the regional host. Which ends up playing in Borden’s favor.”
Ryan Ingram, Sports Correspondent: “Borden has looked like a determined team since losing to Springs Valley a month ago. Coach Doc Nash has his Braves peaking at the right time. I look for them to treat this regional as ‘business as usual’ and take care of Orleans and Barr-Reeve.”
Joseph Adams, Sports Correspondent: “The championship will be a great game between Barr-Reeve and Borden, but at the end of the day, Barr-Reeve is just too tough. Barr-Reeve only lost one game all season so far, and the team they lost to they ended up beating in the sectional championship. This team is focused to make a state-title run, and although Borden has an experienced team, in this contest, they are just overmatched.”