INDIANAPOLIS — It was a banner day Saturday, as the 108th boys basketball state tournament concluded with four first-time champions for the first time since 2002.
Despite a record 10-plus-inch snowstorm battering Indianapolis for the entire day, 25,000 people packed Bankers Life Fieldhouse to watch Morristown, Oak Hill, Culver Academy and Warren Central all pick up their first hardwood championships.
The day began with the Morristown Yellow Jackets, from just across the border in northeast Shelby County, romping to their championship against Southwood, 89-60. Morristown, whose athletics director Josh Johnson coached the Greenfield-Central boys teams from 2009-14, was never seriously threatened by the Knights.
Three players stood out for the Yellow Jackets in different ways. Eli Streeval had a self-described “game of his life” as he poured in 35 points on 14-18 shooting (5-8 from three). Logan Laster posted the first triple-double in a championship game since 2006 with 24 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists. And leading scorer Hayden Langkabel had a double-double with 16 points and 14 rebounds.
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“I just sat back and let Eli and Logan score all the points,” Langkabel said. “It was fun to watch those two.”
As for the overall meaning of this championship for Morristown, it will be one of togetherness.
“I told the boys in the locker room that they not only brought a school together, they brought a community together,” Morristown coach Scott McClelland said afterward during a news conference.
In the night-cap 4A game, another team bordering Hancock County won its first championship, when Warren Central defeated Carmel 54-48 to bring home an undefeated 32-0 season.
Not many in attendance would have predicted Warren Central to win the game midway through the second quarter, when the Warriors had not scored a point for 11 minutes. But their defense kept them within striking distance as it had all season, and the comeback began.
The Warriors used a 7-0 run late in the second quarter to turn a 13-point deficit into a six-point deficit. More importantly, it gave the team energy heading into halftime.
“Obviously, we came out sluggish,” Warren Central junior David Bell said afterward. “Coach told us at halftime we needed to pick it up so we didn’t get embarrassed in the second half.”
Carmel, led by 6-foot-10 Butler recruit John Michael Mulloy, wouldn’t go away easily. The Greyhounds were able to build the lead back up to 11 points midway through the third quarter; the Warriors outscored them 37-20 in the final 12 minutes of the game.
Warriors coach Criss Beyers said he believed his team’s habit of playing close games (three overtime victories, three tournament games being decided by five points or fewer) and being in similar situations paid off for the Warriors in the biggest game of the season.
“They’ve believed all year long that there is no deficit that is too much,” Beyers said.
The Warriors became the first undefeated champion at any level since 2009.