News From Terre Haute, Indiana

March 24, 2013

Linton community rallies around Miners' runner-up finish at state

Steve Fields
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — If Linton boys basketball fans were disappointed with the Miners’ 86-73 loss to Bowman Academy in the IHSAA Class 2A state championship game Saturday afternoon in Bankers Life Fieldhouse, they did not show it.

Supporters were on their feet, loud and proud as senior Austin Karazsia received the Class 2A Arthur L. Trester Award for mental attitude and the team received its state runner-up medals.

Jed Jerrells, a Linton graduate and now principal at North Daviess, presented Linton’s runner-up medals as a member of the IHSAA Executive Committee.

“We’re happy to make it this far. We’re really proud of our boys. They did an awesome job this year,” said Kenzie Kendall, a senior cheerleader.

It’s hard to believe, but Linton actually returned tickets to the IHSAA. Athletic director and proud father Charlie Karazsia said Linton sold 1,853 tickets. Karazsia returned 250.

Austin Karazsia really appreciated the support Linton fans showed.

“We’ve never experienced this. The town really rallied behind us, the school rallied behind us, which we haven’t had in some years. Giving the community that sense of pride in our school just really brought everybody together [and] made it fun for us,” he said.

“It shows they care. I mean $15 a ticket. I think that’s a lot. I was talking to a couple of people and [said] that $15 a ticket is worth it, it’s state finals. Just to have everyone up here is great. Obviously we would have liked to win, but we’ll take back a lot of memories.”

Karazsia and his father had attended the boys basketball state finals every year since he was 7 years of age.

“I remember Austin tweeted this morning he’s been waiting since he was 7 years old to play in this ballgame. We come to this game every year, so this was the final season to be able to play in it. Fantastic,” Charlie said.

Katie Wells, a Linton senior, got into the IHSAA halftime show. She and a representative of Bowman Academy were asked some basketball questions, with multiple-choice answers. Wells won.

“I was really nervous. I don’t usually do public speaking. I was shaking, but our community, our crowd helped me out,” Wells said.

Wells was just happy to be there.

“It’s been amazing. We can’t even describe how proud our whole community is of our boys. I’m best friends with Austin Karazsia and I couldn’t be more proud of him,” Wells said.

Linton and Bowman Academy brought their bands to the state finals. Neither of the Class A teams playing in Game 1 — Borden won 55-50 over Triton — brought a band.

“It was absolutely an honor. We’ve had great athletics in all of our sports this year and this is a culmination, so far,” Linton band director Mike Puckett said.

With 3 minutes and 36 seconds to play, Linton closed to within five, 70-65, on two free throws by Jackson Bohnert. The Miners regularly play four-minute games in practice.

“We wanted to get into a four-minute game and with four minutes we had an opportunity. They made their free throws and they had a two- or three-possession lead where they had a working margin. Our goal was to get a much game pressure on them as we could get. We were probably just a possession or two away. I don’t think the [final] score was indicative of the game,” Linton coach Joey Hart said.

Hart’s assistant coaches receiving medals were Jim Clothier, Noah Hawkins, Chris Kosiak and Joe Hart, Joey’s father who coached Union to the Class A state championship game in 2000.

Former Linton coach Les Newman, an assistant on the school’s 1982 sectional championship team, said the Miners continued to improve throughout the tournament.

“It feels great. These kids really came together. They’ve stepped up their game each level they went to, they just kept playing a little bit better. When you get into tourney play, that’s what you got to do and they’ve been able to do that,” Newman said.

And yes, the Miners know they are legends. They’ve already signed autographs around the Greene County community. But what they experienced together is what they will remember.

“It is a great accomplishment,” Bohnert said. “We couldn’t have done it without anybody on this team. Even the kids that don’t dress, they pound us in practice, they foul us, they make us stronger. [It’s] like a band of brothers, we’re so close. We’re all best friends. We’d do anything for each other. Coach Hart is the same way. He’d do anything for us [and] we’d do anything for him.”

Joey Hart, who admitted that within two hours he, Hawkins and Kosiak would start working on next season, will not forget this team of Miners.

“I couldn’t be prouder of these guys, win or lose. These guys will never be replaced at Linton. They leave their mark. They’re a very special group of kids,” he said.