By Jim Wharton
The competitive nature of Colton Linkous was evident following his team’s loss in the state basketball tournament late last Thursday evening.
Linkous was exiting the Value City Arena floor after he and his Tri-Village mates had dropped a 54-50 decision to Convoy Crestview in a Div. IV semifinal game. One of his Patriot teammates attempted to offer condolences as they entered the tunnel under the stands. Linkous angrily pushed him away and continued toward a somber locker room.
The 6-foot-4 junior put aside his disappointment a few minutes later to talk to the Morrow County Sentinel. He admitted that he had played probably the worst game of the year. It’s something no one wants to do in the state tournament.
“Most definitely my worst,” said Linkous. “I had plenty of chances to do stuff. I couldn’t handle the ball. Offensively it wasn’t my night. I should have done more.”
Linkous, who became the third member of his immediate family to play in a state tournament, had entered the game averaging 19.8 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game for a team that was 26-1 on the year. He set a school single season record for rebounds and was named first-team all-conference, first-team District 9 Coaches Association and third-team Associated Press all-Southwest District.
In the loss to Crestview, an unbeaten squad that would go on to win the state title two days later, Linkous couldn’t get untracked. He scored his first points at the 3:40 mark of the opening period to bring his team to within one at 7-6. That, however, would be his lone first-half point. He didn’t score again until canning a three-pointer on an inbounds play with 2:33 showing on the fourth-quarter clock. Three Linkous free throws at the 50.9-second mark brought the Patriots to within five at 47-42. He assisted on a basket by teammate Tyler Cook with 33.1 seconds left but Crestview was perfect from the foul line in the final 29.5 seconds to maintain its advantage.
“We just didn’t handle the ball,” said Linkous. “They put pressure on us and we had too many turnovers. We didn’t defend when we needed to defend. We didn’t come out and play our game. We just didn’t do what we needed to do to get the win.”
And from a personal standpoint, after scoring eight points, snagging three rebounds, handing out six assists – and committing a game-high six turnovers?
“I had plenty of chances to do stuff,” said Linkous. “I couldn’t handle the ball. Offensively it just wasn’t my night. I should have been moving more. I just stood around too much.”
Linkous can lament the setback forever. But family history tells us he’ll strive for excellence.
He comes from a long list of basketball players named Linkous. He was the fifth to play in the state tournament – all since 1988.
His father, Randy, a 1990 Highland grad and still the school’s all-time leading scorer, with 1,489 points, started it in 1988 when he scored 13 points and grabbed six rebounds as Highland dropped a 67-43 decision to eventual state champion Hamilton Badin.
Mike Linkous, a cousin to Randy and second cousin to Colton, played on the 1992 Highland squad that reached the state tournament. Mike scored four points and had three rebounds as the Scots fell 68-55 in the semifinals to eventual champion Orrville.
Mike’s brother J.P. is the lone Linkous to be on the winning side of the ledger in a state-tournament contest – and he notched two victories. J.P. scored two points and had three rebounds in a 70-68 win over Rocky River Lutheran West in the 1998 semifinals and then had three points and seven rebounds in Highland’s 80-61 victory over Cincinnati Indian Hill in the title game.
Next it was Colton’s sister, Kayla, who also had a subpar game in the 2012 girls’ state tournament, scoring eight points and hauling in five rebounds as Tri-Village lost 53-47 to Berlin Hiland in the semifinals. Kayla had entered the state event scoring at a 28.1 per-game clip, making first-team all-district and being named the Div. IV state player of the year.
And they were all among the 9,303 fans in the arena that night.
“It means a lot to me that our family was all here to keep the tradition going,” said Colton Linkous. “But I wasn’t wanting to keep the tradition going, I was wanting to start my own legacy. But tonight wasn’t my night to do that.”
He admits he gets plenty of advice, especially from his sister and father.
“Dad always said you don’t want to dream about making it (to the Final Four),” said Colton Linkous. “He says you dream about winning it. We didn’t want to get here – we wanted to win it. My dad wanted us to get the monkey (of not winning the state) off his back.”
Colton says Kayla also chimes in with advice.
“The same exact things,” he said of the words of wisdom he gets from his sister, who recently completed her second year of playing basketball at Cedarville College. “Her and my dad, they talk about the same exact stuff – just go out there and play your game and do what you have to do.”
Basketball runs deep on that branch of the Linkous family tree. Colton’s mother, Katie Hottinger Linkous, also was a standout prep player at Tri-Village.
Colton Linkous even convinced his uncle Robbie, Randy’s older brother and a 1985 Highland grad who scored 734 points in his three years of varsity basketball, to make the trip from Cleveland, MS for the state tournament.
“Robbie told Colton that if Tri-Village made the state tournament, he’d be there,” said Sparta resident Nancy Linkous, mother of Robbie and Randy and grandmother of Kayla and Colton. “When they won, Colton texted Robbie and said ‘are you on your way yet?’ ”