By Steve Fields
RICHMOND — It’s one thing to have a goal. It is something else to achieve it. Linton did Saturday afternoon.
The Miners are in the Class 2A boys high school basketball state championship game.
Led by Dess Fougerousse and Austin Karazsia and with key defensive play, steals, assists and big buckets from Bryant Jackson, Keith Fulk and Jackson Bohnert, the Miners slipped by the Speedway Sparkplugs 76-75 in overtime at Richmond’s Tieran Center.
Karazsia, Jackson and Fougerousse combined to hit six free throws in the final 1:03 of the overtime period.
After Speedway’s Corey Ross scored with seven seconds left, Fulk alertly held the ball out of bounds, then called timeout with 1.6 seconds on the clock to avoid the five-second violation and lock up the Miners’ first-ever trip to the state championship game.
“I don’t think you win these games, I think you survive them,” Linton coach Joey Hart said with what little was left of his voice. “Going to the state. That’s amazing. It’s great. We’re still getting better, that’s the thing. We wanted to keep practicing because we feel we’re still getting better.”
Fougerousse led all scorers with 33 points and seven assists, followed by Karazsia with 28 points and a game-high 14 rebounds.
“We have 6-8 [Karazsia] and 6-5 [Fougerousse] and they’re crazy basketball players. They’re just really good and we got to just keep getting them the ball so they can keep scoring for us and getting and-ones,” Bohnert said.
Speedway’s more balanced attack was led by Jordan Furlow with 20 points, Anthony Jones with 18, Justin Brent with 17 and Austin Anglea with 11.
“The biggest thing is we had to figure out how to defend [Furlow] even off [missed] free throws. Furlow is an amazing player, but that’s not to discount Jones or Brent. Furlow is something else,” Hart said.
After 12 lead changes in the fourth quarter, the score was tied 66-66 at the end of regulation play. But Linton felt it had an edge going into the four-minute period.
“We play four-minute games all the time [in practice]. Coach [Hart] is really good about that. Going into that overtime we knew we had the edge; [the Sparkplugs] had a lot of foul trouble,” Karazsia said.
Karazsia tipped in a miss to open the overtime and with 2:16 to play, he hit two free throws to give the Miners the lead for good, 70-68.
Bohnert stole the ball with 1:24 on the clock, and seconds later Karazsia started the Linton free throw parade.
“We were excited. We knew we could play a four-minute game. We knew if it got tight we could hit free throws and win the game. That’s what we did, defense and free throws,” Fougerousse said.
Linton led at every stop. Karazsia scored eight points the opening quarter and Fougerousse hit a 3-pointer to give the Miners a 14-12 lead after one quarter.
The Miners had to play the game at a slower pace against the much faster Sparkplugs. Speedway tried to force the tempo, but Linton set up its half-court game and took a 32-29 halftime lead on two Karazsia buckets at the end of the second period.
“We kept falling into their trap and wanting to go fast. I love to go fast, that’s my game. But [the Sparkplugs] were really, really fast. I’m not that fast. So we kept trying to slow it down, and we kept falling into their trap, so it was up and down the whole game,” Fougerousse said.
“Against the pressure [defense] you’ve got to score, otherwise they keep bringing it at you,” Hart said.
Linton took the biggest lead of the game, 41-33, midway through the third quarter when Speedway sagged back on Karazsia and left Jackson open on the perimeter. Then Fougerousse made a spinning move to the basket for the eight-point advantage.
But over the final four minutes of the quarter Speedway’s Furlow and Brent led a 13-6 run and Linton’s lead was just 47-46 going into the fourth quarter.
Neither team led by more than three points in the fourth quarter.
And now its on to the state finals.
“We thought it could happen and everybody always thinks it could happen, no matter how good you are. We didn’t believe it could happen until we won the sectional and we came together as a team and then we wanted nothing else,” Fougerousse said.
LINTON (76) — Fougersousse 10-18 10-14 33, Bohnert 2-6 0-0 4, Karazsia 10-19 8-10 28, Jackson 1-1 5-6 8, Fulk 1-3 0-0 3, Woodward 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-47 FG, 23-30 FT, 76 TP.
SPEEDWAY (75) — Brent 7-16 3-8 17, Jones 8-13 1-3 18, Ross 2-10 3-4 7, Anglea 4-10 0-0 11, Furlow 8-14 1-2 20, Anderson 1-1 0-0 2, Kinnick 0-0 0-0 0, Ahrens 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 30-64 FG, 8-17 FT, 75 TP.
Linton.............14 18 15 19 10 — 76
Speedway......12 17 17 20 9 — 75
3-point shooting — Linton 5-8 (Fougerousse 3-4, Jackson 1-1, Fulk 1-2, Karazsia 0-1), Speedway 7-17 (Furlow 3-5. Anglea 3-6, Jones 1-5, Ross 0-1). Total fouls — Linton 11, Speedway 22. Fouled out — Anglea, Furlow. Turnovers — Linton 22, Speedway 12. Rebounds — Linton 36 (Karazsia 14, Bohnert 9, Fougerousse 7), Speedway 30 (Furlow 8, Brent 7). Assists — L 14 (Fougerousse 7), Speedway 9 (Anglea 3). Steals — Linton 7 (Bohnert 4), Speedway 14 (Furlow 7). Blocks — Linton 2 (Karazsia 2), Speedway 4 (Furlow 4).
Next — Linton (24-3) will play Bowman Academy on Saturday in the Class 2A state championship game in Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Speedway finished 21-5