By Maurice Kirby | @MoKirby_31
Sports Capital Journalism Program
INDIANAPOLIS – The Warren Central Warriors overcame their early imperfections to complete a perfect season, outlasting the Carmel Greyhounds, 54-48, in the Class 4A championship game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The Warriors, 32-0, became the 13th IHSAA Boys Champion to complete an undefeated season in 108 years of tournament basketball and the first to win 32 games. Warren Central is the first unbeaten champion since Bloomington South won the Class 4A and Princeton won the Class 3A titles in 2009.
Warren Central became the second school to win Boys and Girls state championships in the same season, joining the Class A champions from Oregon-Davis in 2007.
Senior guard Dean Tate scored 22 points, including 13 of 14 free throws, to lead the Warriors. Tate, who averaged 11.5 points, scored 16 points, including all of his free throws, in the fourth quarter.
The Greyhounds, 21-8, were paced by junior forward John Michael Mulloy with 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting and eight rebounds. Carmel’s Ryan Osborn could have become the second first-year coach to lead a team to a state championship. Christopher Hawkins, who led Crispus Attucks to the Class 3A championship a year ago, is the only first-year coach to do that.
For much of the first half, Warren Central’s historic feat was in jeopardy. The Warriors jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead, but then missed 10 consecutive shots and were outscored, 20-0, for a period of 11:02. The Warriors, who averaged 62.7 points per game, did not reach double figures until 1:13 remained in the second quarter. For much of that stretch, Warren Central appeared timid, refusing to attack the paint, running their offense by going sideline to sideline and taking contested jump shots.
On the other end, the Greyhounds were the aggressor on their 20-0 run. Mulloy was able to get deep position in the paint and scored with ease. Senior Cole Jenkins, who scored 8 points, followed his big man’s lead attacking the rim getting an easy layup and drawing fouls to get to the free throw line. Carmel went into halftime leading 22-14 and looked like the better team for the majority of the half.
“Coach told us we have been through this before,” said Warren Central senior Antwaan Cushingberry, who scored 10 points with five steals. “There were plenty of games where we were down, and our defense just picked up and we came back.”
Warren Central started to gain some momentum in the third quarter as Cushingberry got a steal and a layup and followed that up with a huge 3-pointer to bring the Warriors within four, 30-26, with 2:02 left to play in the quarter.
Warren Central senior guard Joe Rush made a layup with 6:36 to play to give the Warriors a 33-32 lead, the first of four lead changes within a span of 1:16.
Mulloy, who had been charged with his fourth foul with 1:15 to go in the third quarter, gave the Greyhounds their last lead by making two free throws with 5:17 to go.
He assisted on a 3-point shot by senior guard Jalen Whack that brought the Greyhounds within two points, 50-48, with 17 seconds to play.
But Carmel junior guard Luke Heady was called for a technical foul with 10.8 seconds to play after the ball was tapped out of bounds.
Osborn acknowledged that his team, out of timeouts, was attempting to get Warren Central to inbound the ball.
“Typically, when you tap it out of bounds it’s a delay of game and you get a warning,” Osborn said. “He said it was a delay of game and they got the technical based on circumstances….
“I’m not going to blame a play at the end of the game…on the outcome of the game.”
Tate made two free throws, and then two more after Heady was charged with his fifth foul. Warren Central’s celebration was beginning.
“It’s a blessing for us and we are excited,” Cushingberry said. “The girls won state and we won state and we just made history… I just want to shout out to my community because I love the guys, and the support has been crazy, and I just love being a Warrior.”