By Braxton Roach
Sports Capital Journalism Program
INDIANAPOLIS – In their first state finals appearance in 107 years, the Yellow Jackets of Morristown won the school’s first championship, defeating Southwood, 89-60, for the Class A title. The Yellow Jackets, 28-2, were led by junior guard Logan Laster, whose 24 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists gave him the first triple double in any state finals game since 2006.
Senior forward Eli Streeval scored 35 points, the third most by a Class A player in the last 21 state finals, on 14-of-18 shooting.
Before a crowd of 13,127 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the largest for an opening session since 2008, the Yellow Jackets outrebounded Southwood, 51-29. Senior forward Hayden Langkabel, who scored 16 points with six assists, had 14 rebounds to tie the second-highest total in a Class A state final. Laster’s 13 rebounds tied for the sixth-highest total.
In its only previous appearance in the state finals, in the first year of an Indiana state tournament when 12 teams competed, Morristown lost in the opening round. Morristown won for the 26th time in 27 games by holding Southwood to its third-lowest point total this season, more than 17 points beneath the average of 77.39 points, which had been fourth-highest among all schools in the state.
Morristown set a Class A state finals record with 25 assists on its 37 baskets. Laster’s 10 assists set a record for a Class A state final.
Southwood, 25-4, was led by junior guard Peyton Trexler, who scored 18 pooints with seven assists and three steals. The Knights, who made 51.9 percent of their shots and 38.4 percent of their 3-point attempts this season, were held to 36.1 percent shooting, 15.6 percent behind the line.
“You can hold your head high whenever you lose to a great group of guys who I’m sure have played together for a very long time,” said Southwood coach John Burrus. The Knights had won 25 of their previous 26 games, with the only defeat an overtime loss at eventual Class 2A champion Oak Hill.
Streeval’s total of 35 points was 20 above his average. “In the sectional last year I did not produce how I wanted to,” he said, “but this year is completely the opposite. In the biggest game this happens. It is just a great feeling.”
Laster’s triple-double was the first in any state final since Bobby Jolliff of Hauser had 10 points, 15 rebounds and 11 blocks against Tri-Central in the 2006 Class A final. “I’m going to be honest,” Laster said with a grin. “I looked at the board and figured out I needed two assists and thought I might as well drive the lane and pass to Eli.”
Although Streeval and Laster led the way in terms of statistics, Langkabel played an essential role. The Marian commit shot a subpar 35 percent from the field, but still managed to be extremely effective at both ends. In addition to his 16 points and 14 rebounds, Langkabel had six assists and two steals. Langkabel’s career total of 2,186 points passed Eric Gordon of North Central for 23rd place on the IHSAA scoring list.
“Coach told me that I needed to do something to get myself going so I figured that I should probably go rebound,” Langkabel said, “and from there I just sat back and watched Eli and Logan. It was very fun.”
Morristown proved today that the Yellow Jackets were so much more than just one player. This was a tight-knit group that played for one another, the coaching staff, and the community.
“I feel like in today’s society everything is just so negative, but not today,” said Morristown coach Scott McClelland. “These young men brought this community together. They unified a community. I could not be more tickled for these group of guys. They are what Indiana High School basketball is all about.”