By Braxton Roach
Sports Capital Journalism Program
INDIANAPOLIS — The Eagles of Culver Academies won the school’s first IHSAA state championship in any sport when they defeated the Evansville Bosse Bulldogs, 64-49, at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The Eagles, 23-6, held the Bulldogs 34 points beneath their state-leading average of 83.3 points per game to reverse the outcome of their first meeting this season.
The Bulldogs defeated the Eagles, 74-64, on Dec. 16 as Mekhi Lairy scored 36 points. On Saturday evening, the result was a much different story.
Lairy scored 28 points for a career total of 2,237 to move into 18th place in IHSAA history, past Dave Shepherd of Carmel and Logan Irwin of Whitko. But Lairy committed nine of his team’s 18 turnovers. The Eagles scored 26 of their 64 points as a result of Evansville Bosse turnovers.
The Bulldogs, 25-5, reached the Class 3A state championship game for the second time in three seasons and were attempting to win a fourth title, the first since 1962.
The Eagles were led by Ethan Brittain-Watts, Trey Galloway and Deontae Craig, who combined to score 48 of the Eagles’ 64 points.
Aside from Lairy, the Bulldogs could only muster one other double-figure scorer, senior guard Jaylin Chinn with 10, and made just 24 percent of their shots.
From the tip, it was clear that the Eagles planned on playing solid team defense and forcing the Bulldogs to play at a slower pace. Culver’s defense stymied the Bulldogs early, holding the state’s most powerful offense to only eight points in the first quarter, with no field goals in the final 4:14.
“I thought we played really good team defense today,” said sophomore guard Trey Galloway who was assigned Lairy on defense. “Lairy’s an amazing player, he is tough. We just played good defense.”
Even the coaching staff of Evansville Bosse seemed to be a bit stunned by the defensive effort that held the Bulldogs to 34.1 percent shooting. “It pains me to think that I did not have my guys prepared,” said Evansville Bosse coach Shane Burkhart. “I thought they were prepared, but Culver had a different plan…
“They played very well on defense,” Burkhart continued. “Mark Galloway is a heck of a coach, and he had his team prepared.”
The Eagles gained as much as a 22-point lead with 5:55 to go in the second quarter. But Lairy scored 14 points within a span of 2:58 to help bring the Bulldogs within nine points at halftime.
In the second half, the Bulldogs came out with the same defensive tenacity and cut the Eagles’ lead to five points, 34-29, with 6:23 to go in the third quarter. However, that is as close as the Eagles would let them come. Culver controlled the pace for the rest of the game and once again stymied the Bulldogs’ offense.
“I think after December we just really started focusing on defense,” Galloway said. “We started to play hard defensively and that is when we started to play very well.”