Friday night’s Central Indiana Conference matchup was different for the Bruins. Their third-year head coach Jerry Hoover would miss the game because he was hospitalized this week due to having pneumonia. He left the keys to his son and assistant coach Don Hoover. The absence of the team’s head coach did not distract Blackford (8-2, 3-0 CIC) from defeating Madison-Grant (6-5, 1-2 CIC), 93-74.
This year’s matchup had some strings attached for the Bruins. In last season’s contest, the Argylls won by two points in the final seconds. A foul in the closing seconds of the game sent Madison-Grant to the line, and it won the game from there. That defeat left a sour taste in the mouths of the Bruins, and they were ready for revenge.
“This game mattered for these kids. They wanted to beat [Madison-Grant], particularly with how it ended last season,” Don Hoover said. “These kids have put in maybe their best week of practice for the entire season. They’ve been very focused.”
The Bruins started the game with a turnover. The opening tip was mishandled, and they gave the ball away. The Argylls took advantage and took an 11-7 advantage early in the first quarter. From that point on, it would be all offense for Blackford. A 13-0 run put the Bruins back in front, and they had a 10-point lead after the first quarter.
Behind the scoring of junior Luke Brown and senior Brandon Stroble, Blackford outscored Madison-Grant, 22-16, in the second quarter and possessed a 43-31 lead at the break. The Argylls would close the gap to 10 in the third quarter, but the offense of the Bruins was too much for them to handle.
“There’s a couple boys that went through slumps, and they shot the ball really well tonight,” Don Hoover said. “We are very happy to see them have that success.”
Brown led the team in scoring on the night with 35 points, featuring two 3-pointers made. Brown went nearly perfect from the charity stripe, going 11-for-12 on the night. His ability to spread the ball around led to four different players scoring double digits on the night.
Stroble was the first player to break into double figures. His 11-point first half and three made 3-pointers were a big reason as to why Blackford had a double-digit lead. Stroble went on to connect two more times from long range in the second half to help extend the Blackford advantage. The three was a crucial part in the success the Bruins had on the offensive end.
“It’s huge. I think that it is a big part of the game today. You’ve got to be able to knock down the three,” Don Hoover said. “I don’t even know where to begin in terms of talking about how important it is.”
Friday’s win pushed the Bruin’s to 3-0 in the Central Indiana Conference, one of the more competitive conferences in the state, producing two basketball state champions since the 2016-17 season.
“Right now, we are sitting at a very good place within the conference,” Don Hoover said. “This is a very good basketball conference, and we are honored to play in it. The kids are feeling good about themselves.”
The Bruins proved why they are ranked in the top 10 in class 2A. In last week’s AP poll, Blackford was ranked at No. 8. With only two losses on the season, this team has earned the respect of its opponents and the state.
“These kids are handling it pretty well, and I think that is remarkable when you look at the fact that Blackford had struggled for a couple of decades,” Don Hoover said. “In some respects, it is some new found success, and I think as a whole, they’ve done a good job of handling these expectations that are going with this.”
Blackford will next travel to Mississinewa Jan. 17 for its fourth conference matchup.