By KRIS MILLS – firstname.lastname@example.org
With the game on the line, Shelbyville’s senior leader wanted the ball in his hands.
On opening night Wednesday for the Golden Bears’ boys’ basketball team, senior forward Luke Asher made a clutch, fadeaway jumper as time expired to help Shelbyville top visiting Rushville, 47-45.
After Golden Bears’ head coach Ryan Mack called a timeout with approximately 10 seconds left in regulation, Asher went to work at the top of the key. Driving left with the basketball, Asher was cut off but still found daylight for a last-second shot. The result was nothing but the bottom of the net.
“I said ‘give me the ball and get out of the way,’” Asher explained after the game. “We ran a 1-4 low, and I made a move.”
Mack, noting the amount of progress Asher has made with his ball handling, was confident in his senior and most experienced player.
“I thought it was cool that Luke said he would get a bucket and ended up getting a bucket,” Mack said. “It was a tough shot. I had a set where I wanted to give him the ball on the block. But he told me he wanted the ball up top and wanted to make a play.
“I have always had good trust in my players. If you don’t trust your guys, they won’t trust you.”
Asher finished the game with a team-high 12 points and also grabbed five rebounds. Shelbyville junior point guard Mitch Yeend was efficient in the win, as well, finishing with 10 points, while junior wing Layton Stieneker made threes 3-pointers on his way to 11 points.
Yeend, a smart, tough-nosed player, hit a 3-pointer with 1:10 to play in the fourth quarter, which gave his team a two-point lead (45-43).
“Mitch does what we ask him to do,” Mack said. “He hit that big shot, it was a huge moment. It is crazy how slow the game goes for a coach at that time. My first thought was about all the hard work he has put in, I knew it was going to go in.”
The Golden Bears also received contributions from junior starters Jack Baker, a guard, and Tj Sherwood, a forward, in the win, while junior forward Matthew Bunton and freshman guard Oliver Sandman both hit a 3-pointer in the second quarter.
After a slow start, Shelbyville had four different players make a three in the second frame. Sandman sparked the run with his make from deep as the Golden Bears went into the break with a 23-17 lead. Asher led SHS with seven points in the first half, while Yeend added five points and four rebounds.
“Sandman looked good tonight,” Mack said. “I told our guys that our rotation is tough to decide right now. Everyone has an opportunity to play, you just have to do something when you get in.”
After halftime, Stieneker nailed two threes in the third quarter but SHS could not pull away. Trailing by five (37-32) heading into the fourth, Rushville used three 3-pointers to chip away and eventually take the lead.
Lions’ senior guard Logan Graddy hit a pair of free throws to give the visitors a 43-39 cushion, but Stieneker would drill his third 3-pointer of the game to bring Shelbyville within one (2:39 left in fourth). Yeend followed with his aforementioned make from deep before Asher sealed the deal with his late-game heroics.
“I think we were a little nervous tonight with it being our first game,” Asher said. “If we hit shots, it is a 10 or 15 point game. But all that matters is we got the (win).”
Graddy led Rushville (0-1) with 19 points Wednesday.
Shelbyville (1-0) plays again Saturday at Whiteland. The Warriors have not played a game this season.
Notes: SHS finished the game 16 of 48 from the field (1-for-13 in first quarter) and 6-for-9 from the free throw line. Rushville was 17 of 35 from the field and 4-for-9 from the charity stripe. SHS finished with eight turnovers, while the Lions committed 15. Rushville won the rebounding battle, 31-21.
Kris Mills is the Sports editor of The Shelbyville News. Follow Kris on Twitter @KrisMills37.