By Noah Wolfgang | @NoahWolfgang44
Sports Capital Journalism Program
INDIANAPOLIS — The Carmel Greyhounds won their fourth boys basketball state title with a 60-55 victory over the Ben Davis Giants in Saturday’s Class 4A state championship game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Carmel (26-1) won its third championship in the last eight tournaments. Ben Davis (20-8) had hoped to win its second 4A championship in three years and the fourth overall.
The Carmel win served as a repeat performance for the Greyhounds, who defeated the Giants, 49-39, in a regular-season matchup on January 25. In both games, 6-foot, 10-inch senior John Michael Mulloy had the task of defending powerful Ben Davis center Dewand Jones, a 6-9, 360-pound senior who will play football at Ohio State.
Jones’ 16 points verify that Mulloy had a strong defensive game. Jones averaged 18 points and made 72.4 percent of his shots. Mulloy led the effort that kept Jones below his average and contributed 13 points with six rebounds.
“He’s a big guy,” Mulloy said. “To be that agile and that quick, as big as he is, it’s definitely a tough task.”
Mulloy was named the Trester Mental Attitude Award winner, the fourth Carmel player in eight years to receive the award in Class 4A and the fifth overall.
Jones put his surprising agility on display when he took a hit a fadeaway jumper as time expired in the third quarter. With 2.1 seconds to play, Jones caught a pass of more than 75 feet from Kai Hickman-Steinman, turned quickly to his right, and made a 17-foot jump shot from the left side to cut the Carmel lead to 40-37. The shot capped off a 5-0 Ben Davis run in the last 2:43 of the quarter that kept the Giants in the game. Carmel freshman guard Pete Suder, who led the Greyhounds with 14 points, had confidence in Mulloy’s ability to contain Jones.
“He did phenomenal,” Suder said. “When we played them earlier in the season he did great, and he just got better today.”
In the fourth quarter, Carmel jumped out to a 44-37 lead with 5:45 left to play, but Ben Davis responded with a 6-0 run to draw within one point. Carmel answered with a 10-2 run that put the Greyhounds ahead, 54-45, with 1:09 left to play. The Greyhounds led for 30:33 and never trailed.
But a 3-point shot by Ben Davis senior guard Cameron Maul with 26.3 seconds to play brought the Giants within three points, 56-53. Carmel senior guard Luke Heady made three of four free throws, the last with 17.7 seconds to play after he stole a pass from Maul. Carmel had a 59-53 lead.
Ben Davis senior swingman Jalen Windham, who finished with a game-high 22 points that included 13 of 14 free throws, managed to draw a foul on a 3-point attempt with 12.1 seconds to go. Windham hit two of the three free throws to cut the deficit to four. Mulloy was fouled with 11 seconds to play and made one of two foul shots to seal the game for Carmel.
Ben Davis head coach Don Carlisle, who won two state championships as a player for the Giants in 1995 and 1996, remained positive after the loss.
“We weren’t supposed to be here, and we got here,” Carlisle said. “And we’ll be back.”
Carlisle and Ryan Osborn, the second-year Carmel coach, are former players and assistant coaches at IUPUI. “Coach Carlisle is an incredible person,” Osborn said. “He’s a great coach and he’s doing a heck of a job over there. Just to be able to shake hands and hug and congratulate what he’s doing.”
One of the surprising aspects of the game was the scoring of Suder, the only non-senior starter for Carmel and the lone freshman starter on any team in Saturday’s four championship games. Suder, who had averaged 6.0 points this season, led the Greyhounds 14 points and grabbed 7 rebounds, one fewer than the team-high total of forward Andrew Owens. Suder added three assists, three steals and a block.
For the other Carmel starters, this game was a chance to replace the disappointment of last year’s title game loss to Warren Central and end their high school careers on the highest possible note. In order to do so, however, they had to learn from the mistakes that they made a year ago. This year, Mulloy knew what he had to do.
“It’s always been about us, to stick to what we do, to learn from our mistakes,” Mulloy said. “They played really, really well tonight, and we just had to lock down and do what we had to do.”