BROOKVILLE — Senior Night is always an important night for everyone involved. But Brookville's game Wednesday night was meaningful for a much bigger reason — the Raiders needed a win for a share of the D-IX League title.
Unfortunately, they were matched up against the DuBois Beavers, who had already secured their share of the title, and DuBois stormed to a 39-30 victory and became the lone title champions.
"Honestly, I think mental mistakes hurt us more tonight than physical mistakes," Raider head coach Bud Baughman said. "It's not being on the right guys or not being in the right positions at the right time. We have a great group of kids, and they played hard, but I think the better team won tonight."
Brookville had the 28-27 lead with 5:06 left in the game, but the Raiders could not hold on as DuBois sunk a meaningful three-pointer to regain the edge. The Beavers then began to build upon that and took a 32-28 lead with just over four minutes left.
"We had too many mental mistakes where we didn't always guard the people we should've been guarding," Baughman said. "As a result, you had a couple three-pointers near the end that really sealed our fate."
At the three-minute mark, Brookville scored its final points of the night with a bucket by senior Zane Hackett. But DuBois didn't let up, and a few costly turnovers at the end of the game gave the Beavers the victory.
"I think every night you don't win, turnovers are usually going to be your biggest downfall, and (Wednesday night) was no different," Baughman said. "When we play well, we take control of the ball. When we struggle, we turn it over."
And the Raiders did struggle with turnovers throughout the entire game, giving up the ball 18 times, including 11 in the first half alone.
But defense was the star for both teams in the first half. Brookville didn't allow the Beavers to score a point through the first eight minutes and led 5-0 at the end of the first quarter.
It was DuBois' defense that shined in the second quarter, allowing just three points against, and the Beavers had the 10-8 edge at halftime.
"It was pretty much a playoff basketball game, and defense is going to be paramount," Baughman said. "As (we) saw in the first half, we only scored eight points, and they only scored 10. There were no easy shots and very few rebounds."
Things began to open up for the offenses in the second half; the Raiders scored 10 in the third quarter alone, and DuBois earned 12.
The game was back and forth throughout the entire third quarter, and DuBois did not lead by more than four. Brookville tied it up twice but did not lead during the third.
"In the second half, I think the kids started to loosen up a little bit," Baughman said. "I think they were just as tight as anything, but we scored a few more points. But it was a slugfest."
The Raiders pulled within one during the first two minutes with a three-pointer by sophomore Jack Huggins before finally taking back the lead. But things then began to go wrong for the Raiders in the final minutes of the game, and DuBois walked away with the victory.
"Hats off to DuBois, they played a complete game tonight," Baughman said. "We got our just reward because we didn't play for 32 minutes."
Hackett struggled offensively for the Raiders, scoring just eight points, but Baugh- man said he thought Brookville was trying to hard to get the ball in Hackett's hands.
"I just think at times, we were trying to force too much instead of taking the open look," Baughman said. "The open shot was there, and we deferred to try to shove it down in sometimes a little bit too much."
Senior Austin Burney led the scoring for Brookville with 11, and Seth Connor also had a strong game with five points and five rebounds.
The Raiders are still struggling from the injury to Tighe Truman, which has continued to keep him out of the lineup, and Baughman said he will work on making adjustments before the playoffs begin.
Despite the loss, the seniors were honored for their hard work and dedication to Brookville's basketball program. The nine-man senior corps includes Hackett, Burney, Connor, Truman, Sebastian Kerr, Jordan Young, Levi Park, Tyler Galbraith and Pat Brush.
Although the regular season has come to a close for the Raiders, they will return to action next week during the District-IX Class AA playoffs, and Baughman said there are still improvements he wants to make in the few practices remaining.
"I just there's opportunities for shots every time down the floor; we're just not taking them more than anything," Baughman said. "My job as head coach is to find a way to start getting some more scoring other than the big guys. I need to get the guards to be a little more offensive-minded."
The Raiders are two-time District champions, and Baughman said despite the loss of the D-IX league title, the Raiders still have their sights set on another championship.
"We're going to take (a day) off, then we're getting right back in the saddle and going to get ready," Baughman said. "The expectation is the same as it was at the beginning of the year, which is to win the district title."
The District-IX Class AA playoffs schedule has not yet been released.