By John Lachmann
MAYSVILLE, Ky. – Entering Monday, Brossart had not played in the regional tournament since 2010 and had been knocked out in the first round in its last two appearances.
But the Mustangs looked like anything but a team six years removed from a quarterfinal win as they beat Bracken County, 66-44 in a Region 10 quarterfinal at Mason County Fieldhouse on Monday.
“To come in here, handle (Bracken County) was a good sign for us,” Brossart coach Mike Code said. “We showed a lot of maturity in the way we prepared for them the last couple of days, not taking for granted the fact that we had an easy time with them in December.”
Brossart beat the Polar Bears, 62-29 in Brooksville on Dec. 5 – the Mustangs’ lowest point total allowed this season – but Bracken County had won six of its last eight entering districts, including an eight-point home win over Newport to cap off its regular season.
Brossart jumped out to a 10-2 lead in the first four minutes, but the Polar Bears hung around the entire first half, never trailing by more than 10 until a basket by Mustangs junior center Drew Burns off a feed from junior guard Jacob Jennings in the final minute of the second quarter that made it 34-23.
Burns was assessed his second personal foul with two minutes left in the first quarter, relegating him to the bench for much of the remainder of the half.
“Unfortunately that’s happened to Burns a couple of times, so I think we’re getting a little used to it, but Burns is a great player,” senior forward Justin Saunders said.
Saunders had 11 points at halftime, junior forward Alex Trentman had 10 and Burns seven. Brossart shot 64 percent from the field in the first two quarters, and the three forwards were 71.4 percent on field goal attempts.
Bracken County ran off the first five points of the second half, and Saunders answered with a three.
Polar Bears senior Philip Jefferson knocked down a trey at the other end to make it 37-31, and after a fortunate stickback by Saunders off an air ball, the Mustangs called time out.
“We needed to up the intensity, we just needed to re-focus a little bit, get back to what we wanted to do going in,” Code said. “And we were able to get Alex and Justin going right after that and extend things.”
Saunders stole the ball and set up Trentman for an easy basket out of the stoppage, and Brossart senior guard Ben Uebel followed by knocking down a three.
Bracken County slowed the bleeding with a basket by senior guard Grant Crawford, but Trentman scored off an inbound pass, added a bucket with 1:05 left in the third quarter and after Polar Bears eighth-grade guard Austin Crawford scored.
Trentman converted a three-point play to cap off the period with five seconds left, extending the Mustangs’ lead to 16.
Brossart put the game completely out of reach with an 11-2 run to start the final stanza, with Trentman scoring seven points in that span.
Saunders, who scored 32 points in the district final vs. Scott and was named most valuable player of that tournament, finished the game with 22 points, nine rebounds and three assists.
“He’s an awfully good player,” Code said. “The one thing about Justin is he plays well in big games, and he certainly did again tonight.”
Trentman also poured in 22 points – hitting 9-of-12 shots from the field – and pulled down six rebounds. Burns tallied nine points, meaning Brossart’s starting three forwards combined for 53 of the team’s 66 points.
The Mustangs shot 54 percent from the field for the game and dished for 14 assists while turning the ball over just six times.
Uebel scored eight points including two 3-pointers, picked up four helpers and stole the ball twice. Junior guard Jacob Jennings hit a trey and earned four assists in 18-plus minutes.
“That’s a good thing about our team is everyone can contribute,” Saunders said. “I’ll pass it to Ben (Uebel) and I know he’ll make it, he’s a good shooter.”
Brossart will play Montgomery County at 5 p.m. on Friday in a regional semifinal. The Indians were 4-0 vs. area teams in the regular season, including a 10-point win over Covington Catholic at Scott County on Jan. 19.
The last time the Mustangs won in the regional semis was 2000 when they made their only appearance in the state tournament, advancing to the Sweet Sixteen quarterfinals.
BRACKEN COUNTY (13-19): Ray 2 0 6, G. Crawford 1 2 4, Florer 2 0 4, Haight 1 0 2, Jefferson 4 6 16, A. Crawford 3 0 6, Cummins 1 1 3, Fite 1 1 3. Totals 15 10 44.
BROSSART (26-5): Saunders 9 2 22, Trentman 9 4 22, Burns 3 3 9, Uebel 3 0 8, Jennings 1 0 3, Shannon 1 0 2. Totals 26 9 66.
3-pointers: BRO—Saunders 2, Uebel 2, Jennings. BRA—Ray 2, Jefferson 2.
Top Sports Headlines
Conner sprayed 12 hits around the field while sophomore hurler Elizabeth Sims kept Boone County in check as the Cougars grabbed their first district title since 2009.