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Versatility pushes Shawnee boys toward record-breaking season

Which came first, the confidence or the victories? It’s difficult to say, but what the Shawnee boys basketball team cares about is that it has a lot of both.

The Braves are 17-1 and 8-0 in the Central Buckeye Conference Kenton Trail Division. With four games left, they have a chance to break the school’s single-season victory record of 20. A victory tonight over Tippecanoe would clinch a second straight league title. A high seed in the sectional tournament is certain to be awarded Sunday.

“With this group, probably as much as any group I’ve ever had, I think they have confidence in each other,” Braves coach Chris McGuire said.

The confidence has grown as the younger half of the team has proved to the older half that it can score and make timely plays. Jaelin Williams is the Braves’ unquestioned leader with a league-leading 20.4 scoring average. But fellow senior David Sawyer and sophomore Jaden Greenwood have recently lifted their scoring averages to 10 points a game. And it’s not uncommon for sophomore point guard Andrew Tincher, senior Andrew Young or junior Jalen Nelson to score in double figures.

“We know if we pass it to someone that’s open, they’re going to make the shot or make the right play,” Williams said. “We’re not selfish at all on this team.”

McGuire has a long list of qualities that he said has allowed his team to run off 16 straight wins: perimeter scoring, interior scoring, multiple ballhandlers, eight players who can guard any position, pressuring the ball, pressuring the passing lanes. It all adds up to an average margin of victory of 11 points, but some clutch performances have been required.

The Braves came from eight points behind in the final three minutes to beat Kenton Ridge, and they had to make two crucial shots at the end to beat the Cougars by one the second time around. There was also a big comeback to beat Springfield, a buzzer-beater to top Troy and close wins over Stebbins and Tecumseh.

“It hasn’t always been one guy making all those plays at the end,” McGuire said. “We’ve had a lot of guys being able to do it.”

If there can be a turning point in a one-loss season, Tincher said it came in the middle during a stretch of five sub-par defensive performances.

“We realized then if we play defense right, then it’s tough for other offenses to score,” Tincher said. “That was one of the best things we learned throughout the season.”

Tonight’s final home game against Tipp (15-4, 6-2) and next Friday at Tecumseh (16-3, 6-2) are important to the goals the Braves are trying reach.

“Are they satisfied?” McGuire said. “I ask those guys that almost every night. I don’t think they are.”

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