INA -- In the rubber match between two Coal Belt Conference powerhouses, Christopher Middle School coach Russ Hobbs knew his team had to one thing to win -- stop Johnston City's Austin Brown.
Brown has set the court on fire this year for the Indians, scoring 735 points in 23 games. He broke the 1,000-point mark last week, and now has a total of 1,041 eighth grade points.
"We couldn't stop him, but we did slow him down," said Hobbs, whose team came away with the 55-49 win in the SIJHSAA Class M state semifinals.
Brown and the Indians controlled the top-off and took charge, leading 15-14 after the first quarter. However, Hobbs' Bearcats made some adjustments and led by six at halftime.
"We executed some things well," said Hobbs.
The Bearcats continued to hold the lead after three, 45-40,but the Indians hung around. With 29 seconds left to play, Johnston City cut the lead to two, 51-49.
With the lead and the ball, the Bearcats spread the floor and forced Johnston City to foul. The Christopher squad made its charity throws down the stretch.
Indians coach Trevor Clark said he is proud of the improvement his team has shown.
"We gave it a very good effort," Clark said. "We came up a bit short, but we did something a team from JC hasn't done since 1989."
The Indians will face Pontiac in the third place game Friday evening. The Bearcats will face Nashville for the championship.