On Tuesday, the Madison-Grant Argylls shocked the Indiana basketball world, upsetting the No. 3 Tipton Blue Devils in the sectional 39 quarterfinal to advance in the tournament.
And on Friday night, they punched their ticket back to the championship game.
Playing against longtime Grant County rival Eastbrook, the Argylls pulled away in the second quarter and never looked back, defeating the Panthers by a score of 67-46 in the sectional 39 semifinal.
The first quarter was nearly even, as the Argylls held a slim 15-11 advantage heading into the second frame. But the Argylls took over from there, outscoring the Panthers 23-9 to grab a 38-20 halftime lead they would not relinquish.
“It was the defense again,” Madison-Grant Head Coach Brian Trout said. “Our defense not only was getting stops, but they were creating our offense, [especially] when we made our big run late in the first and then early in the second quarter. It was all due to our defense. That was the difference. We gave up 46 points tonight – that’s a very good defensive effort.”
The Argylls increased their lead to 24 points with 5:48 remaining in the third stanza, and controlled the contest from that moment on, advancing to their second sectional final game in the last three years and their third in the last five.
“I think, tonight, Madison-Grant proved that them winning Tuesday night was no fluke,” Eastbrook Head Coach Greg Allison said. “I think they are solid. I think the remainder of the tournament, no matter how far they go, I think they are going to be a really tough out. They shot the ball really well tonight, and I think Coach Trout has got them peaking at the right time.”
Madison-Grant’s defensive play has been the biggest factor in their late season turnaround, and it has played a major role in their first two victories in the tournament.
“The first half of the season, we were giving up almost 65 points a game, and [now] we’re down at 56,” Trout said. “We’re giving up nine points less per game in the second half of the season than we were in the first half. The two efforts that we have had in the sectional with Tipton, and then again tonight, I thought were really good defensive efforts. I don’t know that you can ask a whole lot more defensively with what we were doing.”
The Argylls will face off against CIC foe Alexandria in the sectional 39 championship. The Tigers defeated the Eastern Comets earlier on Friday evening to advance to their first sectional final game in two decades.
“It’s going to be a dogfight,” Trout said. “I know that. I don’t expect anything different. When you play a team more than once, personally, I think it comes down to defense and I think it comes down to execution. That’s kind of what we talked about going into tonight’s game…and I think that’s the key again [Saturday] night.”
Isaac Cooper led the Argylls with 18 points on six-for-eight shooting from the field, while Grant Brown recorded a double-double with 16 points and 11 assists, along with four steals and zero turnovers.
Garrett Holder finished with 16 points to lead the Panthers, while Dylan Bragg scored nine, Bryce Schamber seven, and Alex Baker six.
Though the Panthers recorded just three wins in the 2018-2019 campaign, Allison was proud of how far his team had come over the course of the season. A lot of that growth was a direct result of Eastbrook’s leadership in the junior and senior classes, as Holder, Justin Singer, Brendan Wilson, and Luke Boren helped guide and direct a young, inexperienced team through the course of a grueling season.
“I told them that regardless of what our record is, this is a special group because it’s my first group,” Allison said. “A lot of credit goes to our seniors. We went through a stretch there where we lost a few in a row, but they never let anybody pack it in. They didn’t allow that. We continued to battle. We continued to improve and got better. Holder, Singer, Wilson, and Boren played a very important role. They were vocal leaders, but they were also leaders by example.”
Though the Panthers season has come to a close, Allison is already looking ahead to next season – and beyond.
“I think as a varsity basketball coach, you always have two, three, four year plans in mind,” Allison said. “The kids will be given opportunities. They will be given opportunities in the spring, opportunities in the summer, and opportunities in the fall. Individual players are made in the offseason, and hopefully, we can continue to improve. It’s not an overnight fix – its going to take time and guys putting time into the game of basketball.”