- Rick Cassano Staff Writer
Talawanda High School’s boys basketball team won’t forget its trip to the iconic hoop venue known as the Hoosier Gym on Saturday afternoon.
Ending its eight-game losing streak was a nice bonus.
The Braves trailed once all day and held on for a 43-40 victory over Franklin County (Ind.) at the home of the Hickory Huskers, the fictional state championship team from the 1986 movie “Hoosiers.”
BOYS BASKETBALL COVERAGE
“Just walking in and actually being able to see the gym for the first time … everybody’s taking pictures … it’s pretty cool to be a part of something like that,” Talawanda senior guard Evan James said. “To be able to play in a historic landmark like this, it’s just a fun game to play in. That was our main goal coming in here, just have fun and play hard.”
It was supposed to be Talawanda’s home game, but there was no hesitation to change the schedule after Franklin County made the request.
“They called up and said, ‘We’ve got an opportunity to play in the Hoosier Gym.’ I said, ‘We’ll go right now,’ ” Braves coach Tim Reed said. “It’s just a great experience, really neat. I think I’ll go home and watch the movie again. It’s one of those movies when you’re flipping through the channels, you always sit there and watch it until the end.”
Saturday also marked the Wildcats’ first appearance at the Hoosier Gym.
“I’ve known the organizer of the event for a long time through summer basketball and things of that nature,” Franklin County coach Eric Ebrens said. “He’d sent an email and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got open spots on the 27th of January if anyone’s interested.’
“I contacted Talawanda’s AD and said, ‘Hey, this is a good opportunity to play at the gym where Hoosiers was filmed,’ and he jumped right on it. It’s a good experience for all involved, parents and everybody.”
Playing at the Hoosier Gym is a step back in time. The facility is nearly 100 years old. The court is small, with almost no room between the court and the wooden stands. The team benches are on the baselines.
Reed was happy to play the role of Hickory coach Norman Dale.
“We did a couple things that the movie did down there in the locker room, such as when coach sits down and says, ‘Who do you want to win for?’ ” Reed said. “Each player went through and said who they wanted to win for.”
“Everybody said their teammates, so that was pretty special,” James said. “It feels great to know that we came in here and beat an Indiana team in the Hoosier Gym, and we’re from Ohio.”
The game itself wasn’t spectacular basketball. Both teams were clearly nervous early. Talawanda totaled 19 turnovers and shot 43.3 percent from the floor. The Wildcats had 17 turnovers and shot 28 percent.
James scored 14 points, Ty Hornsby marked 11 and Josh DeWitt added 9 for the Braves. Hornsby and DeWitt grabbed seven and six boards, respectively.
Franklin County managed its only lead (5-3) late in the first quarter. Yet the Wildcats were within a point in the last 83 seconds.
Jordan Floyd’s two free throws with 1:23 left made it a 41-40 affair, and James followed with two foul shots after a Franklin County technical foul.
Talawanda (4-13) couldn’t get two free throws to fall with 10 seconds remaining, but the Wildcats (4-10) missed a trio of 3-pointers in the final minute.
“I’m happy for the kids. They haven’t won a lot, and it was a great win for them,” Reed said. “We’ve had some close ones that we probably should’ve won. Maybe we learned how to win today. Maybe this gets us over the hump and heads us in the right direction.”
James and Hornsby were selected as the Braves’ players of the game. James hit a pair of treys, one of which came at the end of the third period and gave Talawanda a 29-26 advantage.
“That was a big play,” Ebrens said. “Arguably their best player, and we don’t guard him and he knocks down a 3. We kept doing things like that, shooting ourselves in the foot. But give Talawanda credit. They made some plays too.”
Trevor Murray paced Franklin County with 19 points and five 3-pointers. Teammate Dylan Little had a game-high eight rebounds.
Ebrens is a former Ohio coach at Harrison, and his Wildcats will host Harrison on Tuesday. Talawanda will resume Southwest Ohio Conference play Friday at Mount Healthy.
Franklin County 7-8-11-14—40
TALAWANDA (4-13): Evan James 4 4 14, Tommy Winkler 2 2 6, Ty Hornsby 2 7 11, Josh DeWitt 4 1 9, Craig James 1 0 3. Totals: 13-14-43
FRANKLIN COUNTY (4-10): Dylan Little 2 0 4, Clayton Spurlock 1 0 3, Braydon Ertel 1 0 2, Jordan Floyd 1 5 7, Trevor Murray 7 0 19, Hunter Mayfield 2 1 5. Totals: 14-6-40
3-pointers: T 3 (E. James 2, C. James), F 6 (Murray 5, Spurlock)