Going into the second round of boys basketball sectionals, March 4, Edgewood was favored over Brown County, and they performed accordingly.
But that did not make the defeat any less crushing, and the mood outside the Eagles locker room was somber and subdued after their 67-60 loss to the Mustangs.
Things looked promising for Brown County in the early minutes of each half.
Senior Collin Hoskins started the scoring off with 2 points only seconds into the game.
Though the Mustangs fought back, and despite some missed Eagle passes that Edgewood turned into points, Brown County held the lead through the first quarter.
Late in the first quarter, Edgewood missed an attempted three-point, with Hoskins taking the opportunity and turning it into two points for the Eagles.
But the missed shot was to be the exception, not the rule, for the Mustangs that night.
The Eagles started the second quarter with promise, and Hoskins again led the charge, taking the score to 14-10, Brown County.
But that is when things began to unravel for the Eagles, as the Mustangs hit five three-pointers in a row, scoring 17 points in under three minutes to Brown County’s 6 in the same period.
Trailing Edgewood by seven points halfway through the quarter, the strain showed in the Eagles’ ball handling, with the Mustangs making one steel off of junior Jordan Samples that left him visibly upset.
Yet, the Eagles seemed to collect themselves near the end of the half, and senior Matt Redmond made a dash down the length of the court to keep the point spread at seven points before the buzzer.
Coming back from halftime, the Brown County players were noticeably more aggressive, whittling down the 35-28 Edgewood lead.
Samples made back his second-quarter loss, stealing the ball from Mustang players twice in the first minutes, passing to Hoskins for the score both times.
The Eagles also kept the pressure up on the Mustang offense, who missed two more three-point attempts in the opening minutes.
By halfway through the quarter, the Eagles were leading again, 36-35, and Head Coach Chuck Hutchins was visibly pleased with the comeback.
But only two minutes later, and despite another point by senior Austin Heminger at the free throw line, the score had flipped again as Edgewood hit another three-point shot.
The Eagles briefly retook the lead after senior Happy Lacey-Connell responded with two points, bringing the score to 39-38.
But Brown County gave up two with a foul, and despite another two points from senior Austin Kritzer just under the third-quarter buzzer, the Mustangs kept the lead for the rest of the game.
Two minutes into the fourth quarter, Edgewood had bought themselves a six-point cushion. Though the Eagles fought to within five points of their opponents, they never again overcame the Mustang lead.
“We played well, but Edgewood played really well, and you just have to give them credit for hitting shots,” Hutchins said.
From the start of the season, Hutchins had cautioned that the Eagles faced a tough sectional.
The Eagles bested the Mustangs by 15 points during their Jan. 8 homecoming face off, but coming off of a 17-8 season, the Mustangs were favored to win Friday night.
Hutchins acknowledged that his players had a good run coming back from halftime.
“I think we were able to kind of gather ourselves at halftime, and we came out and began the second half on a run, and eventually got the lead, and that’s the way you have to be against a team like Edgewood,” he said.
“They play in spurts,” Hutchins said. “Because they play with pressure, defensively, and they’re capable of sticking some threes in a row, you gotta anticipate that they’re gonna make their runs, and I thought we did a nice job responding to it.”
Despite the two teams being able to match each other through most of the game, it was those spurts that gave the Mustangs an advantage the Eagles could not overcome.
“It just came to, the game was going back and forth there a bit, and they just made a few key plays to put a little distance between us,” Hutchins said.
“They made key plays in key situations, and they’re a good team,” he said.