The Linton Miners 2019 postseason journey is complete. Sadly, the road to Bankers Life Fieldhouse and the State Finals didn’t culminate in a state championship. But what a thrilling ride it was!
Who will ever forget the Miners come-from-behind, last-second victory over the Paoli Rams in the first round of the regional? Then Linton followed up its regional championship with a thorough dismantling of the Shenandoah Raiders in the Seymour Semistate. The Miners shot 67 percent in taking down the second-ranked Raiders 73-56, making it seem easier than it should have been.
The next week Linton was two minutes away from the first boys basketball state title in school history…
Remember, there was no guarantee Linton would survive the sectional. The Miners had suffered first-round exits each of the preceding two years. And two-time defending champion South Knox had handed Linton one of its three losses, 69-66 in late January.
No matter. The Miners disposed of the Spartans 54-39 in the sectional final.
Every step of the way Hart lauded a special group of five seniors he continually referred to as, “The best group of kids we’ve ever had.”
The coach cherished the opportunity to spend another week with his seniors – Evan Slover, Tucker Hayes, twins Sammy and Silas Robbins and Jaden Chambers.
As the Miners advanced through each round of the tournament Hart would say, “We want to keep these five seniors together as long as we can."
Hart would joke with the media, “Those bratty eighth graders can stay in eighth grade a little longer.”
Ironic, considering Hart’s son – also named Joey – is one of those “bratty eighth graders.”
But with the departure of the five seniors, the eighth graders will need to become freshmen in a hurry.
The support from the fans and community was simply incredible. It was great to see all the fans decked out in red and blue cheering on the Miners, gobbling up every available ticket allotted.
Class basketball hasn’t killed fan interest, after all.
Special thanks goes to all the individuals and businesses who purchased advertising space for the Greene County Daily World’s special postseason sections.
And yes, that includes Bloomfield too. For the first time in history Greene County had not one, but two semistate teams this year – the Linton Miners and the Bloomfield Cardinals.
In an odd trivial coincidence 59 was the wild-card number in this year’s 2A State Finals. And 59 was the lucky number for Andrean in more ways than one.
The parochial school, located in suburban Merrillville in the northwest corner of the state, was founded in 1959. Andrean’s athletic teams are nicknamed the Fighting 59ers. The name comes from the year of the school’s founding and its address, 5959 Broadway.
And in its 59th season Andrean won its first boys basketball state title. The score? 59-54.
Linton’s State Finals run evoked memories of the 2013 team’s inaugural journey to Bankers Life.
The 2013 Miners’ goal was to leave a “Linton Legacy,” as Dess Fougerousse, a member of the 2013 team, described it.
They did, and the 2019 squad not only carried on the legacy, they added to it. This year’s team believed they were capable of winning a state title.
“It was overwhelming in 2013,” Hart explained. “Everything was a whirlwind. We hadn’t won a sectional in 31 years.
“These guys came up here believing they could win it.”
This year’s team didn’t quite achieve its stated goal of winning a state championship. But it established a legacy of its own.
Future generations of Miners will look at the 2018-19 team and see what is possible.