We've seen Buddy Brasky celebrate sectional championships before, but he seemed to relish Sunday's 64-57 win over Wilson with a little more gusto.
"This was a very emotional one," Brasky told reporters after the game. "In a lot of ways, this was the hardest one. We had a lot of ups and downs during the season, but we came together at the right time, got into a little roll at the end."
The Blue Devils are now 16-7, and those seven wins are unusually high for a Brasky-coached team and a sectional championship and reflect the up-and-down nature of Batavia's 2015-16 season. There were certainly a couple of points during the course of the year that even making it to the postseason seemed in doubt.
"It's a little bit more special because it wasn't expected," Brasky said.
One challenge this year was the Blue Devils lacked what Brasky called that "go-to-guy," the guy who scores in bunches and the other team knows they have to account for him at all times. Last year, it was Jeff Redband. Before that, Jalen Smith. Before Smith, Andrew Hoy and prior to Hoy, Mike Chmielowiec.
The current edition of the Blue Devils learned over the course of the season, they had to call on each other and pick up each other to be successful.
"The good thing about this (no standout scorer) is that when one person is off, we've got other people to go to and they really step up when it's time," said senior forward Malachi Chenault.
That even attack was certainly evident over the 32 minutes of the championship game. Four players hit double figures in scoring and a fifth was just a point short. TeeSean Ayala led the way with 17 points, hitting four three-pointers, with Jake Schrider adding 13, Ryan Hogan, 12, Chenault 11, and Trevor Sherwood, nine. Chenault also snagged 11 rebounds, with Schrider and Hogan picking up seven apiece, Sherwood, six, and Ayala, five.
"It's kind of fitting that it was spread out like that today because that's the kind of team we were," Brasky said.
It was the type of game where it seemed Batavia was in control all the way, and most of the time, especially from about midway through the first quarter, they held the lead. Sometimes it was by 10 or 11 points, sometimes, only two or three. They held on, but not so tightly that the specter of a Wilson run didn't hang heavy over the court.
"That's the way it's been for us all year and one reason it's been that way is we struggle to score," Brasky said. "We can never put a team away. We get up six, seven, eight, nine points, even 12, and we have trouble delivering the knockout punch."
There was a point about midway through the third quarter when it looked as if Batavia was about to let Wilson make a run and Brasky called a time out.
"They were saying, 'we can't fold, we can't fold,' and I told them, 'You're not going to fold,' " Brasky said. " 'You're not going to fold. All you've got to do is relax, take a deep breath and you're in control of this game.You're not going to fold,' and they didn't. They handled the pressure. They made a lot of clutch free throws down the stretch and did what is needed to win down the stretch."
It was a well-timed timeout.
"Sometimes you wait too long because you want to save your timeouts for the end of the game, but sometimes you've just got to call them and I thought it was time, so I called it and it stemmed the tide, I guess," Brasky said.
As meaningful as the championship was for Brasky, it also meant a lot to the players, who endured the same ups and downs during the season as their coach.
"We had a goal coming in to win a sectional championship," said Ryan Hogan. "When it came time to start sectionals, we had to turn it on, and we knew that. The seniors had to step it up and we did."
"We knew we just had to work together and play as a team and that's what we did tonight and it paid off," Sherwood said.
Chenault, a senior who joined the varsity squad in eighth grade, just before that team headed into the postseason, said winning with the seniors he's practiced with throughout his basketball life was something special.
"It's just a great feeling, you know, with the squad we have and the effort we put into it," Chenault said. "It's about due that Batavia won one again. This is my senior class and going it with them is a wonderful feeling."
One reason the team was able to pull together, Brasky said, is that the team held together as a team, even in the down times.
"They all really cared about each other, and that's what kept us afloat, too," Brasky said. "Through ups and downs, they really cared about each other."
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