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March 24, 2013

INDIANA'S BEST: Braves take title with uncanny poise

Borden completes state championship run with five straight clutch victories

INDIANAPOLIS — For every problem, Borden had a solution.

For every question, the Braves had an answer. For every predicament, a response.

Borden’s poise throughout the 2012-13 IHSAA Class A playoffs culminated in a 55-50 victory over Triton and the first state championship in school history in front of an estimated 10,516 fans at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

“How ’bout these guys?” Borden coach Doc Nash asked in his opening statement at Saturday’s championship press conference with seniors Billy Kirchgessner, Jalen McCoy, Michael Lynch and Cody Bachman by his side. “I couldn’t have asked for a better group of individuals to coach or be around.”

Like they had in every tournament game since their come-from-behind sectional championship win over Lanesville, the Braves remained calm in the midst of the Trojans’ fierce fourth-quarter run.

With gritty defense and timely shooting, Borden took control of the state championship and had control of its destiny with a lead as large as 12 points early in the fourth quarter.

Then Triton and its star — Indiana All-Star candidate Clay Yeo — came to life and got the Trojans within five at 35-30 with 5:10 remaining.

Challenge accepted.

McCoy, who led all scorers with 15 points, found himself open 25 feet from the basket. He didn’t hesitate. His 3-point jumper found nothing but net, pushing the Braves’ lead back to eight.

After a hot start, McCoy had gone cold in the middle two quarters. That didn’t cause a millisecond of hesitation in his shot. Despite the distance, it didn’t cause any angst in his coach, either.

“Shooter shoot,” Nash explained. “That’s the confidence he needs to play with. He’s a shooter for us. He made a big shot.”

“I hadn’t had many open shots. They were guarding me pretty well,” McCoy said. “I figured if I got any space, I needed to shoot it and I did. And, of course, it went in.”

Yeo, who scored 17 fourth-quarter points after being held to two in the first half, then rebounded a Trojan miss and was fouled. His free throws cut the gap to 38-32.

Challenge welcomed.

This time it was Kirchgessner who had an answer. The Borden senior, who finished with nine points and team highs of four assists and three steals, nailed a 3 to give the Braves a 41-32 advantage with 4:31 remaining.

“I was harder on Billy Kirchgessner than any other kid I’ve ever coached,” Nash admitted. “There were rough times. Real rough times. Really, really rough times. But you know what, he’s a winner. He proved that to me.”

Next Joey Corder hit a runner for the Trojans. Borden had the answer again. It came from an unlikely  source. Junior Josh Vollstedt knocked down a 3-pointer — his first points since the regional semifinal two weeks earlier — and the Braves went up 44-34 with just under four minutes to play.

“He had one role on this team and that was to score,” Nash said of Vollstedt, who saw six minutes of action. “We don’t want our kids to think, we want them to react. One of the best things he does is shoot 3’s. We want our kids doing what they do best. I told him to shoot and he hit a big-time shot in the fourth quarter.”

In all, Borden went 8 for 14 from outside of the 3-point stripe.

“I’m not sure we’ve ever hit eight 3’s in a game,” Nash said.

With Yeo on the other side, it wasn’t over yet. The Valparaiso recruit hit a pair of 3’s to cut the gap to 46-40 with 2:46 left on the clock. Bachman answered with a layup and Lynch calmly tossed in a pair of free throws.

Yeo countered with a 3-point play, Tanner Shepherd hit a jumper and Yeo made a pair of free throws and it was suddenly 50-47 with 1:18 still on the clock.

After Kirchgessner made two free throws, the Trojans had a chance to slice into the Borden lead again, but Kirchgessner swiped the ball from Yeo under the Trojan basket with 39 seconds left.

Challenge met.

Kirchgessner got the ball to Bachman, who was fouled. A week after the Braves failed to put away University at the foul line in the semistate, Bachman coolly knocked down his pair to give Borden an insurmountable 54-47 advantage with 33 seconds left.

Kirchgessner admitted that’s when he knew the 2013 Class A state championship would come home to Borden — and that all challenges had been conquered.

Coming through in the clutch is nothing new for the Braves.

It started with Lanesville in the sectional championship when Borden needed a big fourth quarter from Bachman, who missed the tournament las season with a broken leg, to edge the ferocious Eagles.

At the Loogootee Regional, the Braves squeaked by Orleans in the morning semifinal to avenge a heartbreaking loss from a year ago, then they found a way to beat heavily-favored Barr-Reeve for the second regional crown in Borden history.

Both victories were determined by a single point and clutch plays down the stretch.

Against University, the Braves used a 10-3 run in the fourth quarter to overcome a four-point deficit in the final five minutes to advance to state for the first time.

Five straight games the Braves were on the ropes. Five straight games they answered every challenge — in five different ways.

“There were probably five teams we played in this tournament that we probably weren’t as talented as,” Nash said. “The thing is, talent doesn’t win games. Teamwork wins games.

“Our kids bought into not being selfish all year long. There’s not any selfishness on our team. They don’t care who scores. They don’t care who gets the credit. They just want to win. When you have those guys in your program, you’re going to win. They refused to lose and found a way to win.”

Borden’s four senior starters and junior Garrett Vick, who helped lead the Braves to a 46-5 record over the past two season, fearlessly met every obstacle head on.

“These guys  kept fighting and fighting,” Nash said.

It’s a group that showed unwavering determination through every storm, including a two-game losing streak after a 9-0 start and an inexplicable home loss to Springs Valley late in its championship season.

“I think part of it has to do with our maturity,” Kirchgessner explained. “We’ve handled everything that’s come at us all year, no matter what it was. When we got out here for the state championship, the stakes were higher, but we knew what to do.”

“These guys are tough enough to make big shots in big situations,” Nash said. “Any time they were challenged, they came through.”

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