Lincoln Hale took over a close high school basketball game in the fourth quarter Saturday night, scoring 19 of his game-high 30 points in those eight minutes and leading Linton to a 67-58 win over Bloomfield for the Greene County Invitational championship.
It was the seventh consecutive GCI title for the Miners, ranked fourth in the Class 2A poll, and most of them have concluded with a win over the Cardinals, currently third in Class A. Many of them have been classic battles — "Always fun," Hale said later — and Saturday night's was too, for a while.
The lead changed hands 10 times in less than five minutes of the second quarter, for example, but the Miners took the lead for good at 24-22 on a basket by Logan Webb, then had a two-possession lead at halftime after Joey Hart answered a free throw by Bloomfield's Brett Sherrard with a 3-pointer for a 27-23 advantage.
Bloomfield's Peter Combs cut the lead to two points with a basket to open the third quarter, only to have Linton score seven straight points. The Cardinals had to climb the hill the rest of the way, and Linton had Hale to keep Bloomfield from doing that successfully.
The Cardinals got back-to-back baskets by Ryan Schulte, one of them set up by a big blocked shot by Baylin Graf, and were within 42-39 when it became Lincoln Hale time. The Indiana State-bound senior got to the line for two free throws, stole the ball and drew a fourth foul on Bloomfield playmaker Ethan Dean, then got to the line for two more free throws.
"We're very fortunate to have that ace in the hole that a lot of teams don't have," coach Joey Hart of the Miners said of Hale after the game. "We got the matchup we wanted in the second half, and he went down in the post and took advantage."
"As a leader, I've got to do what I had to do," Hale said. "Everybody else did what they had to do, and we got the job done."
Hale wound up with 13 free throws in the fourth quarter and Bloomfield had three players foul out, but the Cardinals were still within 62-56 in the last 30 seconds.
"My kids played extremely hard and they battled," coach J.B. Neill of Bloomfield said afterward. "We just couldn't get over the hump . . . [the Miners'] length and athleticism makes it tough on us."
Hale also had nine rebounds for the Miners, while the younger Hart and Logan Webb scored 13 each. Drew Smith had nine pounds and Braden Walters grabbed seven rebounds.
Smith, who also had five rebounds and handed out four assists, will be needed for a bigger role with starter Josh Pyne sidelined temporarily with an injury he suffered during the tournament.
"We needed somebody to step up, and I was next in line," Smith said. "I do the best I can, try to be a good teammate . . . it was just a team effort."
"He was exceptional . . . we got the good Drew Smith tonight," coach Hart said.
Graf led the Cardinals with 18 points and 10 rebounds, while Schulte scored 13 — 11 in the fourth quarter — and Sherrard and Dean added 12 and nine points respectively.
"We've not shot the ball this year yet like we're capable," said Neill, whose team was barely at 40% from the field and suffered its first loss — but only in its sixth game. "That'll come. We call this our preseason tournament . . . and teams like Linton make us better for the [state] tournament."
• Earlier Saturday — In earlier games Saturday at Switz City, Riverton Parke defeated White River Valley 67-52, Shakamak beat Pike Central 48-38 and North Central took the third-place game over Eastern Greene 63-58.
Derron Hazzard had 21 points, Pierson Barnes and Jacob Bolenbaugh 13 each and Hayden Gilstrap 10 for the Panthers, now 2-3, who play next Saturday at Southmont. White River Valley, 0-9, plays at Evansville Day that night.
Coy Gilbert had a game-high 22 points for Shakamak, which improved to 4-5 and hosts North Daviess on Friday. Freshman Julian Gish scored 12 for Pike Central, now 1-7, which plays Friday at Heritage Hills.
Tyler Vaughn led North Central with 20 points while Peyton Seay added 13 and Trevor Hadley 10. North Central, 6-6, plays at Vincennes Rivet next Saturday while Eastern Greene, also 6-6, got 25 points from Brayton Myers, 11 from Bryson Creager and 10 each from Bryan Rippy and Sam Rees and will play Friday at Clay City.
LINTON (67) — Hale 7-16 15-19 30, Webb 4-9 3-4 13, Smith 4-6 1-2 9, Hart 6-8 0-1 13, Walters 0-0 0-4 0, Cox 0-0 0-0 0, Goodman 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 22-41 FG, 19-30 FT, 67 TP.
BLOOMFIELD (58) — Graf 8-15 1-3 18, Combs 2-4 0-1 4, Schulte 6-11 0-0 13, Dean 3-7 2-2 9, Royal 1-10 0-0 2, Sherrard 4-10 3-4 12, Skomp 0-0 0-0 0, Beard 0-0 0-0 0, Hall 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 24-58 FG, 6-10 FT, 58 TP.
3-point shooting — Linton 4-14 (Webb 2-6, Hart 1-2, Hale 1-5, Goodman 0-1), Bloomfield 4-25 (Graf 1-4, Schulte 1-4, Dean 1-4, Sherrard 1-5, Hall 0-1, Royal 0-7). Total fouls — Linton 11, Bloomfield 25. Fouled out — Royal, Smith, Dean, Schulte. Turnovers — Linton 10, Bloomfield 10. Rebounds — Linton 36 (Hale 9, Walters 7, Webb 5, Smith 5, Hart 4, Team 6), Bloomfield 32 (Graf 10, Sherrard 6, Schulte 5, Dean 4, Royal 3, Combs, Team 3). Assists — Linton 11 (Webb 4, Smith 4, Hale, Hart, Walters), Bloomfield 10 (Dean 3, Graf 2, Sherrard 2, Schulte, Royal, Skomp). Steals — Linton 5 (Hale 3, Webb, Walters), Bloomfield 6 (Graf 3, Sherrard 2, Dean). Blocks — Linton 2 (Hart 2), Bloomfield 2 (Graf 2).
Next — Linton (12-2) hosts Bloomfield on Friday. Bloomfield (5-1) hosts Clay City on Tuesday.