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Raiders face Miners with state finals berth on line

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Shenandoah’s Andrew Bennett (12) races past Harrison Eckel (13) and Bennett Coster (30) of Heritage Christian for a lay-up during last Saturday’s boys basketball semifinal game of Class 2A Regional 11 at Greenfield-Central High School. Bennett scored 30 points against the Eagles and 13 more Saturday night against Northeastern as the Raiders won the regional title, and more output like that will be needed when Shenandoah faces Linton-Stockton Saturday afternoon for the 2A southern semi-state championship at Seymour High School.
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The baby pictures of the current members of the Class 2A No. 2 Shenandoah High School boys basketball team are displayed on a wall at the high school this week. The Raiders will be playing Linton-Stockton Saturday at 1 p.m. for the 2A southern semi-state championship at Seymour High School.
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Shenandoah’s Jakeb Kinsey (4) attempts the second of two free throws while teammate Peyton Starks (11) gets into position to rebound during last Saturday night’s boys basketball championship game of Class 2A Regional 11 against Northeastern at Greenfield-Central High School. The Raiders shot 7-of-10 from the charity stripe against the Knights and 17-of-26 in the afternoon semifinals against Heritage Christian, and will need to be accurate from the foul stripe when they take on Linton-Stockton for the Class 2A southern semi-state championship Saturday afternoon at Seymour High School.

By DAVID RISLEY - drisley@thecouriertimes.com

MIDDLETOWN — The Class 2A No. 2 Shenandoah High School boys basketball team is one win away from reaching the state finals, and just two wins away from capturing the first boys basketball state title in school history.

But first things first. To reach that ultimate goal, the Raiders (26-1) will have to get past Linton-Stockton (26-3) in Saturday afternoon’s Class 2A southern semi-state championship game at Seymour High School, and the Miners are a formidable foe, indeed.

Linton-Stockton is located in western Greene County, a bit southeast of Terre Haute. The newspaper in Terre Haute covers the Miners’ games. Linton-Stockton can be considered somewhat of a small-school power in athletics, as it has done well in past IHSAA basketball, football, and baseball tournaments.

Under Coach Joey Hart, in his ninth season as head coach of the Miners, Linton-Stockton has a record of 178-58. Except for Hart’s first season in Linton when the team was 11-12, the Miners have had eight straight winning campaigns, and have won 20 or more games each of the last seven seasons.

Linton-Stockton was Class 2A state runner-up in 2013 to Bowman Academy, which started a run of four straight sectional titles including another semi-state appearance in 2015. 

In the two years prior to this season, the Miners were eliminated in the sectional by Barr-Reeve 37-34 in 2017 and by South Knox 68-64 in triple overtime in 2018.

Linton-Stockton also has been a football power in recent seasons. It reached the semi-state three straight years from 2011-13 (lost to Eastern Hancock 37-16 in 2013), was state runner-up to Lafayette Central Catholic in 2015, and won the Class A football state championship over Pioneer 34-20 in 2016.

Also, two of the Miners’ current basketball players have made commitments to play baseball at IU-Bloomington.

Linton Stockton comes into the semi-state as undefeated (7-0) champions of the Southwestern Indiana Conference. The Miners are on an 11-game winning streak.

The only teams to defeat them this season have been Class 4A teams Bedford North Lawrence (47-68) and Terre Haute North (36-66), plus Class 2A South Knox on the road (66-69).

Linton-Stockton averages 68.2 ppg and gives up 47.5 ppg. It does not place any individual player statistics on the MaxPreps website.

The Miners feel kind of fortunate to be in the semi-state. They fell behind host Paoli 15-2 in the semifinals of Regional 12 and spent almost the entire game trying to overcome the deficit.

They still were behind the Rams 52-39 late in the third quarter, but then caught fire and eventually caught Paoli at 69-all very late in the game. Linton Stockton went up 70-69 on a free throw, the Rams went ahead 71-70 with about five seconds left, and then the Miners won the game 72-71 on a last-second shot.

Linton-Stockton then defeated Tell City 45-36 Saturday night for the championship. The Marksmen had defeated Class 2A No. 1 Southwestern (Hanover) 54-48 in the other semifinal game of Regional 12.

“We feel really fortunate to be playing this Saturday,” Hart said in a cell phone interview Wednesday night. “We had to battle really hard to defeat Paoli in our first game, and I was concerned we might have some fatigue for the night game. But I’m extremely proud of our boys for coming back after that exhausting win and beating Tell City for the championship.”

Hart relayed a bit of information about his key players, who include point guard Evan Clover (6 ppg, 5.1 apg), Tucker Hayes (12 ppg), Lincoln Hale (18 ppg), and Chip Fougerousse (11 ppg), who is one of the players who has committed to play baseball for the Hoosiers.

Two twins also figure prominently into the Miners’ plans. Sammy Robbins averages 8 ppg and Silas Robbins averages 5.5 ppg.

“We also have another player, Josh Ryne, who we count a lot upon,” Hart remarked. “He doesn’t score a lot, but comes in and rebounds, plays defense, and does a lot of the other little things that helps us win.”

Hart talked a little bit about facing Shenandoah.

“From what I’ve read and seen, they’re a lot like us,” Hart added about the Raiders, “such as playing together as a team, sharing the ball, finding the open man, and playing good team defense. We seem to be pretty well matched and it should be a really good game.”

Linton-Stockton has a large following of fans and requested 1,500 tickets for Saturday’s game. This writer doesn’t know if the Miners got that many.

Folks in the area are already pretty familiar with Shenandoah. Including the Raiders’ two wins over Heritage Christian and Northeastern to win Class 2A Regional 11 last Saturday, the team averages 63.2 ppg and gives up 40.8 ppg.

As a team, Shenandoah shoots 50 percent from the field (55 percent on two-pointers), 40 percent from beyond the arc, and 70 percent on free throws.

Five players average in double figures. Andrew Bennett leads in that category at 13.4 ppg, followed by Kaden McCollough 11.3 ppg, Jakeb Kinsey 10.7 ppg, Evan Coers 10.3 ppg, and Peyton Starks 10.2 ppg. 

The Raiders rebound by committee as Starks leads the team on the boards at 4.5 rpg, followed by Jackson Campbell 4.2 ppg, Bennett 4.0 ppg, McCollough 3.7 ppg, and Coers 3.5 ppg.

Bennett averages 5.4 assists per game, followed by Kinsey 3.7 apg, McCollough 3.2 apg, Starks 1.6 apg, Coers 1.4 apg, and Campbell 1.2 apg. Bennett also averages 2.9 steals per game, followed by Kinsey 1.8 spg and Coers 1.2 spg.

Shenandoah has lost only one game this season (in double overtime 70-67 at Class 4A New Palestine) and is on a 20-game winning streak.

“I’m really pretty happy about how we’re playing right now,” Shenandoah Coach Dave McCollough said in an interview Wednesday morning. “Of course, there’s always things we can improve on, and we always are working in practice to do that.”

Coach McCollough talked a bit about facing Linton-Stockton.

“I don’t have any stats about them,” Coach McCollough said, “but I do know they have some really good athletes that have some length and they have three or four players who average in double figures or close to that. They’re a team that plays pretty well together as you can see by their record.”

McCollough was asked if he planned on many changes going into Saturday.

“At this time of the year, it’s probably too late to make many changes,” he said. “We’ve been pretty successful doing what we do, and we just need to continue doing those things, such as sharing the ball, playing good defense, rebounding, and hitting our free throws.”

Coach McCollough has been pretty pleased with the fan support thus far.

“We’ve had really good fan support in the first two rounds of the tournament,” Coach McCollough added, “and I expect we’ll have a large following down in Seymour even though our fans have a bit farther to travel. We want to play well and reward them with a semi-state championship so they can continue to follow us for one more week.”