Colton Linkous hits game-winning shot for Tri-Village with one second left in the game.
COLUMBUS — Tri-Village set out in November to become real-life Hoosiers. They would have made Norman Dale proud on Saturday.
As the final seconds ticked off the clock with a tie score in the Div. IV title game, senior Colton Linkous drove inside and hit a jump shot to earn Tri-Village its first state championship in a 48-46 win over Canal Winchester Harvest Prep.
Saturday’s game ended in a similar fashion to Hoosiers. In the movie, coach Norman Dale lets star player Jimmy Chitwood take the final shot, which he nails to earn the fictional Hickory Huskers a state title. Tri-Village’s game plan for Saturday’s final shot wasn’t much different; head coach Josh Sagester said he trusted Linkous to make the game-winning shot.
“We just wanted to give him the ball and get out of the way,” Sagester said.
If Saturday’s game was a movie, the writers of Hoosiers could sue for plagiarism.
New Madison (where Tri-Village is located) is a small rural farming town and mirrors Hickory’s real-life inspiration of Milan, Indiana. The Patriots, like the Huskers in the film, had to beat an athletic opponent and come from behind to win.
The comparison’s not lost on the Patriots. Tri-Village practiced at Hoosier Gym (the Knightstown, Indiana facility where much of the movie was filmed) in November before the start of regular season.
“The script kind of played out,” Sagester said. “It’s very ironic that Hoosiers is kind of what we predicated this thing on, and (Linkous) goes out and makes a Jimmy Chitwood shot.”
Linkous made plenty of critical shots on Saturday. The 6-4 senior guard led Tri-Village with 22 points and 12 rebounds. Damion Cook, a 6-4 senior forward, added 15 points and 11 rebounds for the Patriots.
The combo of 6-4 players was too much for Harvest Prep to contain.
“They’re bigger than us,” Harvest Prep head coach David Dennis Sr. said. “We have only one 6-4 or 6-5 guy in Rael (Windley)… Rael probably can hold his own against Damion, but we kind of don’t have that extra person that can control Linkous. I thought we did a good job, but his size is definitely a factor, especially in the post area.”
Not all of Saturday’s game mirrored Hoosiers. Unlike Hickory’s early struggles against the fictional South Bend Central, Tri-Village dominated early and led by ten points at halftime. The Warriors made a furious comeback attempt in the second half and tied the game three times in the fourth quarter.
Tri-Village turned the ball over eight times in the second half, and Harvest Prep scored 11 points in transition as a result.
“I think their pressure defensively stirred us up a little bit in the second half,” Sagester said. “We maybe took a few a bad shots. But certainly I think what you found was a little bit of a desperation mode. I think I saw more urgency out of them in the fourth quarter… When you play a good team like this, they’re going to make a run. They made a few, and I thought we were good enough just to weather it.”
Harvest Prep went on a 9-4 run in a three-minute stretch in the fourth to tie the game. David Dennis Jr. hit a layup with 59 seconds left to cap off the run and tie the game at 46-46.
Tri-Village ran down the clock and called a timeout with 28 seconds left to set up the final play. Linkous got the ball on the right wing and drove to the free-throw line. He collided with Dennis and shot as he fell backwards. The shot bounced off the side of the rim into the net with 1.2 seconds left.
“Coach drew up a play for us, and credit to the other team because they got us out of that play,” Linkous said. “My teammates found me open. Coach was talking to me from the sideline and told me to go, so I went and just hit the shot.”
It didn’t look like Tri-Village would need any last-second attempts to win Saturday’s game after a lopsided first half.
Harvest Prep shot 20 percent from the field in the first half, and the Patriots had a 19-15 rebounding advantage. Linkous scored on an off-balance three at the second quarter buzzer to push Tri-Village’s lead to 25-15 at halftime.
The Warriors limited Tri-Village’s lead down to three points midway through the third quarter, but Tri-Village finished on a 9-4 run to take a 35-28 lead.
Harvest Prep scored the first seven points of the fourth quarter, with the last two coming on a basket from Dana Coffman with 5:32 left to tie the game. It was a close game after that.
It was a long journey from practicing at 800-seat Hoosier Gym in November to playing in front of 9,794 fans at Value City Arena on Saturday, and Sagester was happy to be there. After Tri-Village’s semifinal win over Tuscarawas Central Catholic on Thursday, Sagester became ill from what he thinks was food poisoning. He spent most of Friday in bed.
“I’ve been down and out, but I feel pretty good now,” Sagester said.
There’s nothing like a Hollywood-style state championship to help you recover.
Tri-Village state final postgame press conference | TBSN raw video