ZIONSVILLE – After winning four-straight Hoosier Crossroads Conference boys basketball titles the Zionsville Eagles have fallen off this season.
They entered Friday night’s game against league leading Brownsburg with just a 1-3 record in conference play, but thanks to a patient game plan they still made an impact in the final conference race.
Jackson Hughes scored on a runner with 27 seconds left to break a 39-39 tie, then the Eagles survived three excellent Bulldog chances to tie before escaping with a big 42-39 win.
“We have had a lot of big wins this year,” said Zionsville coach Shaun Busick. “We got Carmel, Cathedral, Culver, Warren Central, and now Brownsburg. Most of our losses have been right to the wire so this kind of a game was good for us because we played at a pace like this and lost a few and I think this was a great game to prepare for the tournament at a similar pace.”
Neither team had much separation throughout as there were six ties and seven lead changes. Class 4A No. 6 Brownsburg (13-3, 4-1) led 14-11 at the end of the first quarter thanks to a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Connor Lucas.
The Bulldogs led 24-18 at the half and were in front 30-24 with 3:04 left in the third on a triple from Pierce Thomas, but the Eagles went on a critical run to close the quarter.
Hughes started the run with a 3, then Isaiah Davis added two free throws before Ben Weidner closed the 8-0 spurt with a hoop-and-harm three-point play to put Zionsville (12-7, 2-3) in front 32-30 after three quarters.
Thomas broke the run by scoring the first five of the fourth quarter, but Weidner drew a foul on a three-point attempt with 4:36 left and connected on all three free throws to tie the game at 35-35. Both teams were content to patiently run their offense and look for a good opportunity.
“I think coach Lynch was being patient too,” said Busick. “He’s on his team about being patient and I think they play incredibly well together and he was going to be patient about getting the shot they wanted. I think you’re seeing a lot more of that around the state because when you force the action you turn it over or take bad shots, and both can lead to opportunities for your opponent.”
Both teams played a relatively clean, mistake-free game as each had just five turnovers and nine committed fouls.
The difference late was on the offensive glass, however.
With 2:53 left Anthony Scales scored off of an offensive rebound to put the Eagles in front 37-35. Thomas then split a pair of free throws, but on the next possession Scales scored again on a pu-tback with 1:22 left to make it 39-36 Zionsville.
The Bulldogs had an almost immediate answer as Lucas got loose for a tying 3-pointer with 1:03 left, but Zionsville worked its offense and got the go-ahead basket from Hughes with 27 seconds left.
Brownsburg still had three excellent chances in the final 20 seconds. Luke Lacey had an open drive to the basket that he left short with 15 seconds left and Logan Imes secured the rebound. Weidner was then fouled with 13.8 seconds left and he hit one of two free throws.
Brownsburg brought the ball up and got open looks from three from Thomas and Lucas in the final five seconds, but neither went down.
“Those open threes were a little frightening and we had a foul to give, so we really wanted to foul, but give them credit. They were smart enough to get the ball down and shoot it quickly,” said Busick. “There is no question this type of win builds our confidence for the tournament.”
Weidner led the Eagles with 15 points and Scales had 14, none bigger than his two putbacks late.
The Eagles were an extremely efficient 16 of 29 from the field and 7 of 9 from the free throw line.
Zionsville travels to Avon next Thursday.