By Noah Wolfgang | @NoahWolfgang44
Sports Capital Journalism Program
INDIANAPOLIS — The Andrean Fighting 59ers never stopped fighting. Their dramatic 11-0 run in the final 1 minute, 55 seconds became the difference in the 59-54 victory over the Linton-Stockton Miners for the Class 2A state championship.
“It’s just crazy that in our 59th year we score 59 points and get our first title,” said Andrean senior John Carrothers, who played an essential role in the comeback. In the last 1:41 of the game, Carrothers scored four of his 16 points with four rebounds and a steal.
Andrean (21-8) won its first state championship in its first title-game appearance in 19 years. Linton-Stockton (27-4) had won its previous 12 games. Senior guard Tucker Hayes led the Miners with 15 points, but did not score in the last 7:17.
The 59ers, down 54-48 with 2:05 left to play, had work to do to save their title aspirations. They responded by scoring four points within 18 seconds on a jumper by sophomore forward Kyle Ross, who also scored 16 points, followed by a steal and layup by Carrothers.
With Andrean within two points and 1:25 left to play, sophomore guard Nicholas Flesher grabbed a defensive rebound and drew a foul. He made the first free throw and stepped to the line to attempt a second foul shot that would give his team its first lead since midway through the third quarter.
Flesher’s foul shot clanged off the rim, but Carrothers grabbed the rebound and drew another foul on the shot.
“They missed the free throw, we couldn’t get it, and it became two more free throws,” said Linton-Stockton coach Joey Hart.
Carrothers converted on both free throws to give Andrean a 55-54 lead with 1:22 to go. Linton-Stockton searched for nearly 50 seconds to get a good look, and junior forward Kip Fougerousse missed a 3-pointer. Carrothers grabbed his third rebound of the game and passed it to Flesher, who immediately drew a foul with 24 seconds left.
This time, Flesher both free throws for a 57-54 lead. A 3-point shot by Linton-Stockton sophomore guard Lincoln Hale was no good. Flesher grabbed the rebound and made both free throws to give Andrean a 59-54 lead with seven seconds to go.
“When he was at the free throw line, I felt pretty good sitting on the sideline because he was gonna make those plays,” said Andrean coach Brad Stangel.
Flesher, who had averaged 8.6 points, scored 12 points, including six of nine from the foul line. His 23:48 of playing time was third highest among the 59ers, but Flesher came off the bench.
“When we took him out of the starting lineup in December, [he] didn’t pout, didn’t complain,” Stangel said.
With four seconds remaining, Linton-Stockton senior guard Evan Slover was fouled by Flesher and had the opportunity to cut the lead to three. But Slover missed both free throws, Carrothers grabbed the rebound and the Andrean celebration began.
The Fighting 59ers were unranked coming into the tournament, and in their path to the championship stood fifth-ranked Westview and fourth-ranked Frankton. Eighth-ranked Linton-Stockton stood in their way on Saturday, but Andrean didn’t care.
“There was a newspaper article that said that we shouldn’t have been here,” Carrothers said. “We took it personal.”
For the Linton-Stockton players, the pain of the defeat was mixed with the satisfaction of all the things they had achieved. Silas Robbins, a senior for the Miners, remembered that in 2013, when he was in the sixth grade, Linton-Stockton lost to Bowman Academy in the title game.
Robbins recalled that this is what got him into basketball. He has high hopes that a new generation of sixth graders will have the same experience.
“I hope that those kids now are looking up at us and want to do the same thing,” Robbins said, “and I hope that they end up with a different color around their necks.”