Zach Kuhn was well on his way to one of those shooting nights you try to forget.
After hitting his first shot attempt — a three-pointer near the midway point of the first quarter — the Shelbyville sophomore missed his next eight shots. The Golden Bears were knee deep in a battle with Whiteland and their leading scorer was struggling.
So Shelbyville’s bench, albeit a short one, came to the rescue.
Senior Nick Anderson went to work harassing any Warrior he could find. And junior Brock Blackwell offered an offensive punch, including a key 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter.
Kuhn did the rest from there.
With 15 seconds left in the third quarter, he finally ended his 0-for-8 streak — and started an 8-for-8 run that led Shelbyville to a 68-62 victory over a Whiteland team that humbled it last year, 94-69.
“He struggled to hit shots but, defensively, he kept rebounding and did an excellent job and, in the fourth quarter, the lights went on, he got hot and carried us,” said Shelbyville coach Ryan Mack.
Kuhn scored 17 points in the fourth quarter to lead all scorers with 24 points and he produced his third straight double-double with a game-high 13 rebounds.
Cooper Lewis finished with 17 points and Blackwell had 12 points and five rebounds while helping defensively on Whiteland’s leading scorer, six-foot-seven senior Michael Valle, who finished with 23 points and 11 rebounds.
“Those guys (Anderson and Blackwell) were excellent tonight,” said Mack. “Nick, defensively, was unbelievable. I thought he had three five-second calls that weren’t called but just stuck on his guy. And Brock was excellent attacking the basket, getting to the free-throw line and finishing around the rim.”
The two teams traded baskets early but the Golden Bears used a late 5-0 run to take a 17-15 lead after one quarter.
After missing 11 straight 3-point shots over his last five games, Blackwell finally sank a trifecta with three seconds left in the first half to give Shelbyville a 33-30 lead.
The Golden Bears extended their advantage to 38-31 early in the third quarter but it took Kuhn’s first field goal in over 21 minutes to send the game into the fourth quarter tied at 44-all.
Aaron Gross made his third 3-pointer before Blackwell his another 3 and Valle scored on a baseline drive to put Whiteland up 49-47 just 40 seconds into the fourth.
Valle spent the entire game shadowing Kuhn and that proved troublesome. But once Kuhn saw a shot go through the rim, he caught fire. A 15 footer sparked a 7-0 run that put the Golden Bears up for good.
Valle scored off an offensive rebound but Kuhn splashed a tough 3-point shot over two Warriors to spur another 7-0 run. He went on to score his team’s final nine points and lock up a sixth-straight win — a first for the Golden Bears in 11 seasons.
“We’ve been talking about winning out and getting to 16 wins (for the regular season),” said Mack. “We still have to take them one at a time.”
Gross finished with 16 points for Whiteland (12-6). Brennan Neal had nine.
Whiteland won the junior varsity game, 46-39.
Chapman Roy (13 points) and Luke Helton (12) led the Warriors.
D.J. Kramer topped the Golden Bears (8-11) with 16 points. Luke Reed and Luke Asher each had seven.
Shelbyville closes out its Hoosier Heritage Conference schedule and regular-season home schedule this upcoming weekend.
Delta (13-7, 2-4 HHC) visits Garrett Gymnasium Friday. Tipoff for the JV game is 6:30 p.m. The Golden Bears host Waldron (6-11) Saturday night.
Jeff Brown is the Sports editor of The Shelbyville News. Follow Jeff on Twitter at @iamtsnsports.