The play wasn’t designed for Zach Pugh to release a 3-point attempt with a minute remaining, but the Indian Creek junior did anyway.
Gasps of disbelief were replaced by cheers a split-second later as Pugh’s shot from the right wing found the bottom of the net.
In a Class 3A sectional game filled with huge shots, Pugh’s was the biggest Tuesday night as the Braves knocked off No. 5 Tri-West 64-54 in the first round at Beech Grove.
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Indian Creek’s reward for winning is a semifinal matchup Friday against sixth-ranked Danville.
Such is life in what is likely one of the toughest, most-balanced sectionals in the state — in any class.
“We knew coming in what kind of game it was going to be. We just made a few more shots,” Braves coach Drew Glentzer said. “It was one of those things where we had kids step up and make shots.
“Jared (DeHart) maybe didn’t have the best game of his life, but I thought his effort was there. We talked tonight that we didn’t have to have our best game. We just had to compete and play hard.”
DeHart, the Braves’ senior guard and go-to player, did finish with 15 points and seven rebounds. Backcourt mate Pugh led the team with 16, followed by sophomore guard Xavier Ferris with 10 and junior forward Isaiah Lacey’s nine.
Off the bench, 6-foot-3 junior Jace Russell owned the glass with a game-high 13 boards; Indian Creek dominated the rebound battle 37-21. In all, eight Braves scored at least two points.
DeHart stayed on the floor throughout the tense fourth period despite picking up his fourth personal foul on a charging call with 27.2 seconds left in the third.
A 10-1 scoring run by the Bruins to open the fourth put them ahead by four points and Indian Creek in a bind. DeHart answered with his lone trey of the night, and Pugh knocked one down himself. Lacey followed with a rebound bucket at 2:00 and the Braves were up four, 55-51.
Tri-West got to within a single point on a 3-point sequence by junior forward Brayden VanSlyke, but Ferris swished both ends of a one-and-bonus to make it three.
This set up the biggest shot of Pugh’s hoops career. It took place a few feet in front of the Braves’ bench.
“I caught it and let it go. It felt good,” Pugh said. “Usually we’ve been relying on Jared for most of the game, but we’ve got each others’ backs. Any man can step up at any time. Anyone can get hot any night.”
The Braves scored the final four points of the first half to take a 30-26 lead into the locker room. Russell’s putback on DeHart’s missed 3-point attempt with 3.7 seconds left gave Indian Creek the momentum with two quarters remaining.
Senior guard Tyler Watson poured in 32 points to lead Tri-West, which finishes the season 18-5. VanSlyke was the only other Bruins player in double-figures with 10.